Despite their power and effectiveness, subpoenas aren’t magic wands. Even if you have unilateral subpoena power, as House committee chairs do, you can’t simply issue a subpoena and expect the witness or the evidence to arrive at your door. The correct steps have to be taken in order to make sure you win the resulting court battle over the subpoena. That’s what the House Democrats have been doing for the past week, even as observers have been yelling “Why don’t the Democrats do something?” The good news is that the Democrats are now preparing to drop the subpoena hammer.
Donald Trump’s handpicked Attorney General William Barr, who has spent the past week trying to convince the public that his cartoonishly pro-Trump “summary” of the Mueller report is the Mueller report, is now promising to deliver some kind of massively redacted version of the report by the middle of next month. But the Democratic House leadership isn’t buying it. Not even close.
House Democrats gave Barr until this Tuesday, April 2nd, to hand over the entire Mueller report. Now that he’s made clear he’s not going to meet the deadline or turn over what’s actually being requested, the Democrats are in strong position to go into court and win a subpoena battle. They’re making clear with their own words that they intend to make their big moves on Tuesday.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said this to the media today: “As I informed the Attorney General earlier this week, Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence, by April 2. That deadline still stands.” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings backed him up with a similar message: “Transparency is the foundation of our democracy. The ENTIRE Mueller Report must be made public. The American people deserve nothing less.”
But the most telling words may have come from Congressman Eric Swalwell, who is not a committee chair, but who sits on two of the committees tasked with investigating Donald Trump. Even as Barr is insisting that he needs to remove all information from the report about “peripheral third parties,” Swalwell went on MSNBC this afternoon and spelled out that he doesn’t believe Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner fit that description.
This is key, because it makes clear that House Democrats aren’t just seeking the collusion and/or obstruction evidence that Robert Mueller found about Donald Trump. They’re also seeking the evidence that Mueller found about the other biggest names in in the scandal. In any case, look for House Democrats to subpoena Barr, or Mueller, or the Mueller report, or some combination of the three by this Tuesday, unless Barr relents and hands over the entire report first.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report