WASHINGTON (CN) – Amping pressure on the Department of Justice, the House passed a measure with near unanimity Thursday to compel the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“Transparency is fundamental to the special counsel process, especially when dealing with matters of national security involving the president,” Representative Jerry Nadler said as he and other Democrats introduced the nonbinding resolution.
With guilty pleas from 34 parties, including six members of the Trump campaign, Democrats are eager to make sure the investigation, upon its submission to the U.S. attorney general, is released in its entirety.
“It is important that Congress stand up for the principle of full transparency at a time when the president has publicly attacked the Russia investigation more than 1,100 times and counting,” added Nadler, a Democrat who leads the House Judiciary Committee.
With 15 members abstaining this morning, the 420-0 vote on Nadler’s nonbinding resolution coincides with “sunshine week,” a time when elected officials honor the tradition of transparency.
Along with other Democrats who spoke before the vote, Nadler pointed to statements from Attorney General William Barr and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein that makes them think they won’t release info about individuals not indicted as part of the report.
“If we aren’t prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizens,” Rosenstein said at an event last month.
Nadler said this “normal salutary policy” must not apply, however, in the event that the Department of Justice adheres to its policy that it cannot indict a sitting president.
“To maintain that a sitting president cannot be indicted, no matter how much evidence there is, because he is the sitting president, and then to withhold evidence from Congress because the president cannot be charged is to convert the DOJ policy into the means for a cover-up,” Nadler said.
During his February confirmation hearing, Barr told Senator Diane Feinstein he would “make as much information available as I can consistent with the rules and regulations that are part of the special counsel regulations.”
Nadler also emphasized the precedent created through the release of the report of the GOP-led House’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, which resulted in the publishing of 21 transcribed hearings with interviewed FBI and DOJ members, as well as more than 880,000 pages of documents linked to the investigation.
“This expectation is well-grounded in precedent set by the [Department of Justice] just in the last Congress in connection with the three Republican-led investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails,” he said. “Transparency is fundamental principal necessary to ensure that government remains accountable to the public.”
In one of multiple turns at the podium, Republican Representative Doug Collins voiced exasperation after listening to Democrats use their fully allocated 30 minutes to berate Trump and his Cabinet members.
“We’re gonna approve this, we’re gonna vote for it but let’s just not make it any more than what it is and let’s continue on so we can get to a vote everybody can go home and maybe we’ll come back and actually vote on legislation that actually matters,” Collins said.
“This resolution is a restatement of the regulatory burden already placed upon the attorney general,” the Georgia congressman added.
Though he said he has no cause to doubt Barr on his previously stated commitment to releasing the report, Collins stressed that the attorney general has the flexibility to release what information he deems necessary.
Of Barr, Collins emphasized: “He understands the questions, the turmoil, that this has caused.”
Collins also called it “amazing” that many of the Democrats clamoring for full transparency today voted against the release of the special investigation of former President Bill Clinton.
“The American people should not expect another Starr report,” he said.
Collins also suggested the report could exonerate President Trump and said the entire investigation was the result of Democrats burned by Trump’s win.
But Representative Ted Lieu pointed out the American people were the ones who paid for the report and, according to a February 2019 CNN poll, 87 percent of Americans want to see the results of the report. Lieu said any attempts to bury the report would amount to a cover-up.
“What are they trying to hide?” he asked.
Texas Republican Representative Will Hurd reiterated Lieu’s points, saying he wants the full release of the report so the American people can know “what Putin did, what Obama didn’t do.”
“I want the American people to know as much as they can and see as much as they can,” he said. “The taxpayers paid millions for this investigation and they should get to see all of it and not just the assessment of one person.”
Prior to the morning vote news broke of the departure of Andrew Weissman, a leading member of the Mueller team, leading to more rumors the report could be ready for release sooner than later.
Weissmann’s exit comes just a day after a federal judge extended the sentence of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to about 7 1/2 years.