20 Apr 2019

Mueller report: Democrats launch legal action for full version

7:00 am on 20 April 2019

A powerful US congressional committee has issued a subpoena for an unedited version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks during a news conference,

Jerry Nadler announces at a press conference in Washington that the Democrats are taking legal action to see an unredacted version of the Mueller report. Photo: AP

Released yesterday, the report concludes the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, but leaves open the question of whether the president has obstructed justice.

Congressional Democrats have today begun legal action to see all of Mr Mueller's evidence from his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, with an eye to using the probe's findings against President Donald Trump.

United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, issued a subpoena to the Justice Department for Attorney General William Barr to hand over the full report by Mr Mueller by May 1, saying he cannot accept a redacted version that "leaves most of Congress in the dark".

"My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice. The redactions appear to be significant. We have so far seen none of the actual evidence that the Special Counsel developed to make this case," Mr Nadler said.

The report provided extensive details on Mr Trump's efforts to thwart Mr Mueller's investigation, giving Democrats plenty of political ammunition against the Republican president but no consensus on how to use it.

The 448-page document painted a clear picture of how Mr Trump tried to hinder the probe. It did not conclude that he had committed the crime of obstruction of justice, although it did not exonerate him.

The report blacked out details about secret grand jury information, US intelligence gathering and active criminal cases as well as potentially damaging information about peripheral players who were not charged.

Democratic leaders played down talk of impeachment of Mr Trump just 18 months before the 2020 presidential election, even as some prominent members of the party's progressive wing, notably US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, promised to push the idea.

Mr Mueller also concluded in his report that there was not enough evidence to establish that Mr Trump's campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow to sway the 2016 election, a finding that has been known since late March when Mr Barr released a summary of Mr Mueller's conclusions.

'Crazy Mueller report'

Mr Trump, who has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a political witch hunt, lashed out again today.

"Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report...which are fabricated & totally untrue," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.

US President Donald Trump speaks alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L)

US President Donald Trump with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the background. Mr Trump has once again rubbished the Mueller inquiry. Photo: AFP

He seemed to be referring to former White House counsel Don McGahn who was cited in the report as having annoyed Mr Trump by taking notes of his conversations with the president.

"Watch out for people that take so-called notes, when the notes never existed until needed." Mr Trump wrote: "It was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the Report about me, some of which are total b....... & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad)."

Phone conversations between the president and Mr McGahn in June 2017 were a central part of Mr Mueller's depiction of Mr Trump as trying to derail the Russia inquiry. The report said Mr Trump told Mr McGahn to instruct the Justice Department to fire Mr Mueller. Mr McGahn did not carry out the order.

In analysing whether Mr Trump obstructed justice, Mr Mueller revealed details about how the president tried to fire him and limit his investigation, kept details of a June 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and a Russian under wraps, and possibly dangled a pardon to a former adviser.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the Trump administration was not concerned about attempts by the Democrats to look further into whether Mr Trump committed a crime by obstructing justice.

"We have no concerns, no worries whatsoever, because we already know how the book ends: no collusion," Mr Gidley told Fox News.

Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Democrats' subpoena "is wildly overboard" and would jeopardise a grand jury's investigations.

The Mueller inquiry laid bare what US intelligence agencies have described as a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, denigrate 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and boost Mr Trump, the Kremlin's preferred candidate.

Russia said on Friday Mr Mueller's report did not contain any evidence that Moscow had meddled. "We, as before, do not accept such allegations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Asked about Russian interference in 2016, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Washington that "we will make very clear to them that this is not acceptable behaviour."

Mr Trump has tried to cultivate good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and came under heavy criticism in Washington last year for saying after meeting Mr Putin that he accepted his denial of election meddling, over the conclusions of US intelligence agencies.

Half a dozen former Trump aides, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were charged by Mr Mueller's office or convicted of crimes during his 22-month-long investigation. The Mueller inquiry spawned a number of other criminal probes by federal prosecutors in New York and elsewhere.

- Reuters / BBC

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