If you were wondering whether Attorney General Barr was willing to go to jail or be bankrupted to cover for Donald Trump – the answer is “No.” As the Washington Post reported today, the Justice Department has struck a deal with Adam Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee to produce the redacted material and underlying information from Special Counsel Mueller’s report that the panel had subpoenaed, just before the vote on an “enforcement action” that had been scheduled for Wednesday.
In their standoff, both sides have stated their terms: House Intel Committee Chairman Schiff declared that the committee’s subpoena “will remain in effect and will be enforced, should the Department fail to comply with the full document request.” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd in turn told Schiff in a letter that the DOJ will only accommodate the committee’s document requests as long as the committee promises “that it will not pursue any vote on an ‘enforcement action,’ either on May 22, or while such good-faith accommodation measures continue.”
There is still some haggling going on over the time frame for handing over the requested materials. In his letter, Boyd already argued that the DOJ needs more time to produce the documents and it is reasonable to expect that the Department will slow-walk the process as much as it can. However, Adam Schiff announced in a statement today that he expects an initial production of materials by the end of next week, thus providing a clear deadline for compliance with the deal which will be off the moment the Department of Justice fails to hand over any documents at all.
Of course, the fact that the Department of Justice has at long last given in to at least some of the legitimate demands of House Democrats does not mean that it is now going to fully cooperate with the House’s investigation into Donald Trump’s wrongdoings as a candidate and a sitting president. However, the release of materials it has just agreed to is an important step in the right direction and a considerable win for those seeking to shine a light on the dark doings of the people involved in the 2016 presidential campaign and the subsequent cover-up.
What is going to be of particular value for the House investigation is not necessarily what is written in those passages of the Mueller report that have remained redacted so far. We know that what Robert Mueller found only just fell short of meeting the strict legal criteria that define the federal crime of conspiring with a foreign power. Mueller was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump and his associates knowingly joined a conspiracy with the Russian government with the intent to alter the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
But the evidentiary material collected by the Special Counsel’s team in the course of the probe is a treasure trove of material that will now become available to lawmakers and will enable them to do their job properly, which is to work not as a court of law but as a court of ethics as they investigate and ultimately decide whether or not the presidency has been compromised by a foreign power. This is how Robert Mueller intended the results of his painstaking investigation to be used when he provided Congress with a roadmap for the impeachment of Donald Trump.