U.S. House subpoenas unredacted Mueller report

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to submit to the panel an unredacted version of the controversial Mueller report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

House Judiciary committee chairman Representative Jerrold Nadler, a democrat, said on Friday, April 19, that the panel is requiring Attorney General William Barr to submit to them the documents by May 1 at 10 am.

Barr and the DOJ released on Thursday, April 18, the redacted version of the report from special counsel Robert Mueller that showed, among others, how President Donald Trump tried to stop the investigation into Russian meddling in the elections that had him winning the presidency over Democrat bet Hillary Clinton.

"My Committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice," Nadler said in a statement on Friday.

"I cannot accept any proposal which leaves most of Congress in the dark, as they grapple with their duties of legislation, oversight, and constitutional accountability."

Nadler said the redactions by Barr were "significant."

"Even the redacted version of the report outlines serious instances of wrongdoing by President Trump and some of his closest associates," Nadler said. 

He added: "It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward."

Following the release of the redacted version, the White House has highlighted how Mueller said in the report that investigators found "no collusion" between Trump and Russia. 

Congressional investigations

Analysts pointed out that the release of the Mueller report could only be the start of a more extensive investigation by the House.

For starters, the House can summon witnesses, said Professor Charles Tiefer of the University of Baltimore.

"This 400-plus page report is not the underlying information alluded to in the report, like copies of emails or other documents, that provides broader information about so many matters. The House has every reason to seek and to receive the underlying information," Tiefer said.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, also a democrat, said on Friday that the US Congress should determine whether Trump's obstruction attempts amounted to a crime.

"As I said some time ago, whether these acts are criminal or not, whether the obstruction of justice was criminal or not, or whether these contacts were sufficiently illicit or not to rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy, they are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral, and unpatriotic, and should be condemned by every American," Schiff said.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, said that Congress must press on Trump.

"While we have more detail from today's report than before, Congress must continue its investigation into Trump's conduct and any foreign attempts to influence our election," Sanders said.

As part of these investigations, Democrats have called on Mueller to testify before the House of Representatives by May 23. The Trump administration has announced it would not oppose that.

Attorney General Bill Barr, who has come under heavy fire by Democrats for how he managed the publication of the report, will face Congress on May 2. 

 Impeachment off the table? 

After the report's release, some lawmakers from the party's left wing have once again waved the threat of impeachment.

But the Democratic party's leaders have once again clearly dismissed this option.

Even if the House of Representatives were to embark on such a path, it would likely be doomed to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate where a two-thirds majority is required to remove a sitting president. 

Former Democratic president Bill Clinton was acquitted from his own impeachment proceedings in this fashion in 1999.

Eighteen months out from presidential and congressional elections, the opposition must be careful in how it navigates the choppy waters of the Russia investigation. The probe has spanned more than half of Trump's presidency without affecting his base. 

The president enjoys a 90 percent approval rating among Republicans. On the other side of the aisle, some 20 Democrats are vying for their party's nomination.

These candidates exercised caution in reacting to the report, posting one or two tweets before pivoting to the core issues of their campaigns and the subjects that are priorities for voters: health insurance, rising inequality, education and student debt.

It was a formula which paid dividends in November 2018 midterms when they retook the House after eight years of Republican rule. 

Reacting on Thursday, Pete Buttigieg, a once little-known candidate whose campaign has surged in the early part of the Democratic race, said the report was "disturbing," though its findings were "not completely surprising."

"Today again demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020," he concluded. –  Lian Buan, with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com