The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Monday that he has reached a deal with the Justice Department to obtain “key evidence” related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice.
The deal, announced by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), appears to forestall possible criminal contempt proceedings against Attorney General William P. Barr, who has been locked in a standoff with Nadler and House Democratic leaders over access to redacted parts of Mueller’s report as well as evidence gathered during his two-year investigation.
Nadler said in a statement that the Justice Department would be “opening Robert S. Mueller III’s most important files to us, providing us with key evidence that the Special Counsel used to assess whether the President and others obstructed justice or were engaged in other misconduct.”
“All members of the Judiciary Committee — Democrats and Republicans alike — will be able to view them,” he said. “These documents will allow us to perform our constitutional duties and decide how to respond to the allegations laid out against the President by the Special Counsel.”
The deal represents a victory for House Democrats in their quest to focus public attention on Mueller’s report and the alleged presidential abuses of power they say the report documents. But it is a limited victory: It moves them no closer to securing testimony from Mueller or other figures, such as former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who could galvanize the country at an open hearing.
The House will proceed with a vote Tuesday on legislation authorizing the Judiciary Committee to seek court enforcement of its subpoenas, according to two senior Democratic aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal decisions. The committee said Monday that further action could be necessary to secure documents and testimony not covered under the new agreement.
The agreement does not address the committee’s request for testimony from McGahn — a key source for Mueller’s report who has declined to testify, citing the wishes of Trump administration lawyers.
One of the Democratic aides said that while court action against Barr is on hold pursuant to the deal, the Judiciary Committee still intends to ask a judge to order McGahn to testify.
Meanwhile, Nadler remains in negotiations over securing Mueller’s testimony, which many Democrats see as a crucial factor in focusing public attention on the investigation. Mueller, however, has so far resisted those requests, saying in his only recent public appearance, on May 29, that his report speaks for itself. Democrats have not accepted that posture, and Nadler has said he could subpoena Mueller if he does not agree to testify.
Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said of the agreement in a statement: “We are pleased the Committee has agreed to set aside its contempt resolution and is returning to the traditional accommodation process. The Department of Justice remains committed to appropriately accommodating Congress’s legitimate interests related to the Special Counsel’s Investigation and will continue to do so provided the previously voted-upon resolution does not advance.”
Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, also praised the agreement and said that any attempt to hold Barr in contempt would be “baseless.”
“Today’s good-faith provision from the administration further debunks claims that the White House is stonewalling Congress,” he said, pointing to a similar accommodation already reached between the Justice Department and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The standoff between Barr and the House dates back to March, when Mueller delivered his 448-page report to the Justice Department. Barr quickly released a summary that President Trump and his allies seized on to declare vindication, while it took weeks longer to release a fuller version of the report.
Democrats throughout called on Barr to release the report wholly unredacted and allow lawmakers unfettered access to his investigative records — a request Barr resisted, prompting the House Judiciary Committee to issue a subpoena on April 19 for those materials. Since then, the parties have been locked in negotiations — amid public threats to hold Barr in contempt — over enforcement of that subpoena.
Nadler said the first documents provided under the deal would be released to Congress on Monday.
“If the Department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything that we need, then there will be no need to take further steps,” he said. “If important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies. It is critical that Congress is able to obtain the information we need to do our jobs, ensuring no one is above the law and bringing the American public the transparency they deserve.”