Democratic lawmakers resoundingly called for transparency after reading the principal conclusions from special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia and whether Trump obstructed justice.
Members of Congress received a four-page letter Sunday afternoon from Attorney General William Barr summarizing the report’s findings. The letter said that Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein found the evidence “is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense,” and that the investigation did not find collusion with Russia.
House Democrats held a conference call Saturday to discuss next moves while awaiting Barr’s letter while Congress demands access to the full report. Lawmakers repeated those demands Sunday after Barr sent in his summary, saying they should be able to review the underlying evidence that led to the report’s conclusion.
The attorney general said that Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” about whether there was enough evidence to establish the president’s guilt. Barr said that he and Rosenstein came to the conclusion themselves that there was not enough evidence to bring obstruction of justice charges against Trump.
Barr was confirmed last month as the country’s top law enforcement official after being nominated by Trump.
“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers. The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay,” the statement read. “Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
House Democrats have threatened to fight back if the Justice Department does not release the full report. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Sunday morning that he would be willing to take the issue to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“We will obviously subpoena the report,” House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said last month. “We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress. We will take it to court if necessary.”
Barr has said he believes Justice Department regulations prevent him from releasing derogatory information about individuals his office has not criminally charged. A Justice Department opinion also holds that federal prosecutors cannot indict a sitting president.
Nadler said his committee plans to call Barr to testify, citing what the lawmaker called “discrepancies” in the attorney general’s conclusions of Mueller’s report. Other lawmakers agreed, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
Democrats in Congress have debated whether to pursue impeachment proceedings against Trump, with many of the party’s more progressive members advocating for it. At a progressive rally in January, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) made headlines when she said, “We’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker.”
However, Pelosi has repeatedly cautioned against it, and vulnerable Democrats have been reluctant to stake out a position for fear of alienating moderate voters.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said before Barr submitted his letter Sunday that, regardless of the special counsel investigation’s outcome, the country must look at the bigger picture of the damage Trump’s presidency and the Republican Party has caused.
“He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted earlier Sunday. “But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism he amplified+reanimated.”
This article has been updated with additional comment and a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.