House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that he would take the Trump administration to court if Attorney General William Barr doesn’t fully release to Congress a forthcoming report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
There has been much speculation recently that Mueller’s report on possible collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia during the 2016 presidential election could be released in coming days. However, Justice Department officials have said the report will not be released this week, as previously reported.
“If you take the position, and I think it’s a flawed one, but if you take the position that the president cannot be indicted, and the only remedy for improper, illegal, or other conduct is impeachment, then you cannot withhold that information from Congress or essentially the president has immunity,” Schiff, a top Democratic lawmaker, told George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s This Week.
“Bill Barr has committed in his testimony to making as much of the report public as he can, and the regulations allow him to make it all public. And we’re going to insist on it becoming public,” Schiff said.
Schiff also noted that lawmakers would demand “underlying evidence” collected during the investigation that is “only in the hands of the Department of Justice.” That evidence includes information obtained during law enforcement searches targeting Trump friend and former adviser Roger Stone and the president’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Stone was indicted last month on charges of obstruction and lying to Congress. Last Thursday, DC District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered a full gag order against Stone after he posted a threatening image on Instagram containing a photo of the judge set against a background that included what appeared to be the crosshairs of a firearm.
Manafort is expected to be sentenced in March in two federal cases in Virginia and Washington, DC, and could wind up spending the rest of his life in prison. In one of the cases, Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and in the other, he was convicted of tax and bank fraud. A cooperation agreement between Manafort and the government was scrapped when prosecutors demonstrated that Manafort had lied repeatedly to them, to the court, and to a grand jury.
Bloomberg News reported on Friday that New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is preparing state charges against Manafort to counter a possible Trump pardon of Manafort’s federal crimes.
In a sentencing memo filed on Friday, Mueller called Manafort’s years of criminality “bold.”
Stephanopoulos pointed out that some officials have argued that underlying evidence in the Mueller probe should not be made public, per Justice Department regulations, if the department declines to prosecute someone, in this case, Trump.
“But George, the department has violated that policy repeatedly and to a great extent over the last two years,” Schiff responded, referring to thousands of pages of discovery released during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Schiff said the department set a new precedent by releasing those documents, even in a case in which no indictment was handed down. “They’re going to have to abide by that,” Schiff said of the precedent.
He also cited an “intense” need to know by the public.
Otherwise, Schiff said lawmakers would subpoena Mueller’s report, call him to testify before Congress, and “take it to court, if necessary.”
“In the end, I think the department understands they’re going to have to make this public. I think Barr will ultimately understand that as well,” Schiff said.
“If he were to try to withhold, to try to bury any part of this report, that will be his legacy, and it will be a tarnished legacy. So, I think there will be immense pressure, not only on the department but on the attorney general to be forthcoming,” he said.
“We are going to get to the bottom of this. We’re going to share this information with the public, and if the president is serious about all of his claims about exoneration, then he should welcome the publication of this report,” Schiff added.