In a letter to Bill Barr on Friday, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said that his committee was willing to receive specific portions but not all of the underlying evidence from the Mueller report as part of the Attorney General’s document production.
The letter marked the an accommodation from House Democrats as they attempt to jump start negotiations with the Department of Justice for the release of the full, unredacted Mueller report.
Previously, Nadler had been demanding all of the report’s evidence. But in his letter, the New York Democrat said the committee was now willing to “prioritize a specific, defined set of underlying investigative and evidentiary materials for immediate production” including “reports from witness interviews … and items such as contemporaneous notes taken by witnesses of relevant events.”
“Since these materials are publicly cited and described in the Mueller report, there can be no question about the Committee’s need for and right to this underlying evidence in order to independently evaluate the facts that Special Counsel Mueller uncovered and fulfill our constitutional duties,” the letter said.
Nadler has come under some pressure from some Democrats for the approach he’s taken with Barr. Though the chairman did issue a subpoena for the Mueller report, he was criticized for taking his time in doing so. Other top Democrats have publicly ridiculed Barr for his opaque testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Following the news that Mueller had written a note to Barr saying that his summary of the report did not fully capture the nature and context of the special counsel’s work, several lawmakers went as far as to call on the attorney general to resign. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had committed a crime by lying to the Senate.
Nadler has been critical too but he also declined to immediately hold Barr in contempt after the attorney general declined to show up to a committee hearing on Thursday, though the chairman, in his letter, said he would do so if DOJ did not make steps to comply with the committee’s subpoena.
“The committee is prepared to make every realistic effort to reach an accommodation with the Department. But if the Department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the Committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse,” the letter said.
Relations between House Judiciary and DOJ have been contentious, with the sides in disagreement over both how much of the Mueller report should be released, who should have access to the underlying evidence, and what type of hearings should be conducted about its production. Among other matters, DOJ has not agreed to a specific date when Mueller would testify before House Democrats, though sources confirm that the committee is now directly engaging Mueller’s team on the matter.
Things took a turn this week when DOJ said Barr would not show for a scheduled committee hearing because Nadler’s “conditions” were both “unprecedented and unnecessary.” Nadler had proposed that committee attorneys question Barr instead of members—a format that is not unprecedented.
And on Wednesday, DOJ blew past its deadline to respond to the committee’s subpoena for the release of the Mueller report. In a letter to the committee on May 1, DOJ said that it would release the report, though portions of it are still redacted, to only 12 members of the committee. Those members would not be allowed to share or discuss that version of the report with anyone else, DOJ said.