Washington, D.C. April 3, 2019 – Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement during the Committee’s markup authorizing a subpoena for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report, along with its underlying evidence and related matters, as well as subpoenas to five individuals—Donald McGahn, Steven Bannon, Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus and Ann Donaldson—who were sent document requests on March 4, 2019 as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the alleged obstruction of justice, abuses of power and corruption by President Trump, his associates, and members of his Administration:
“In late 1973, the Nixon Administration had an idea. When Special Counsel Archibald Cox asked the White House to turn over recordings of conversations held in the Oval Office, President Nixon offered instead to provide the tapes to Senator John Stennis of Mississippi. Nixon proposed that Stennis—who was famously hard of hearing—would listen to the recordings himself, then provide summaries of the tapes to the Special Prosecutor.
“The Nixon Administration justified the proposal as a means to protect sensitive information that would not ordinarily be made part of the record.
“In hindsight, of course, we know that President Nixon had ulterior motives. In any event, Cox had a job to do. That job required him to evaluate the full record for himself, and he refused the President’s offer. President Nixon ordered him fired the next day.
“The dynamics of the “Stennis Compromise,” as it became known, should sound familiar to us. The Trump Administration has an idea. They want to redact the Mueller report before they provide it to Congress. The Department of Justice says the proposal is a means to protect sensitive information that would not ordinarily be made part of the record.
“But we have reason to suspect this Administration’s motives. The Mueller report probably isn’t the “total exoneration” the President claims it to be.
“And, in any event, this Committee has a job to do. The Constitution charges Congress with holding the President accountable for alleged official misconduct. That job requires us to evaluate the evidence for ourselves—not the Attorney General’s summary, not a substantially redacted synopsis, but the full report and the underlying evidence.
“The Attorney General proposes to redact four categories of information from the Mueller report: grand jury information, classified information, information related to ongoing prosecutions, and “information that may unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.” The Department is wrong to try to withhold that information from this Committee. Congress is entitled to all of the evidence. This isn’t just my opinion. It is also a matter of law.
“For precedent on three of the four categories, we need look no further than the summer of 2016—when, pursuant to congressional subpoena, the Department and the FBI began to transfer more than 880,000 documents related to the Clinton investigation to the House of Representatives.
“That production included classified information, which we held in our secure facility, and which we handle every day. It included information related to ongoing investigations. And it included information related to numerous third parties—many of whom this Committee later interviewed as part of the Republican investigation into the investigation.
“The other category of information the Attorney General proposes to redact is grand jury information—normally protected under Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Many who seem eager to keep this information from Congress argue that the law does not allow grand jury information to be shared outside the Justice Department. That analysis is incomplete, if not outright incorrect.
“It is true that Rule 6(e) ordinarily prohibits the Department from sharing grand jury information with the public. It is also true that, with proper authorization and under court order, the Department must share grand jury information with this Committee.
“That was the case in 1974, when Judge Sirica authorized the release of the Watergate roadmap to this Committee at the request of Special Counsel Leon Jaworsky. It was the case in 1998, when a federal court permitted Ken Starr to release grand jury information along with his report to Congress. It was the case in 2008 and 2009, when this Committee went directly to the grand jury—twice—to get information relevant to our investigation of Judge Thomas Porteous.
“On multiple occasions, I have asked Attorney General Barr to work with us to go to the court and obtain access to materials the Department deems covered by Rule 6(e). He has so far refused.
“I will give him time to change his mind. But if we cannot reach an accommodation, then we will have no choice but to issue subpoenas for these materials.
“And if the Department still refuses, then it should be up to a judge—not the President or his political appointee—to decide whether or not it is appropriate for the Committee to review the complete record.
“The resolution before us today authorizes subpoenas for two categories of information.
“First, the resolution authorizes subpoenas for documents and testimony related to the full and unredacted report of Special Counsel Mueller. I believe the Committee must have access to this information in order to perform its constitutionally-mandated responsibility. The House of Representatives agreed with this proposition when, last month, it voted 420-0 in support of a resolution that demanded the release of the full report.
“Second, the resolution authorizes subpoenas for documents and testimony from certain former White House employees. Each of these individuals has had more than a month to produce documents to this Committee voluntarily. We believe that these individuals may have received documents from the White House in preparation for their interviews with the Special Counsel. We also believe that these individuals may have turned this information over to their private attorneys.
“Under applicable federal law, President Trump waived his claims to executive privilege once this information was transmitted to outside counsel.
“Because we may have to go to court to obtain the complete text of the Special Counsel’s report, and because the President may attempt to invoke executive privilege to withhold that evidence from us, it is imperative that the Committee take possession of these documents, and others, without delay.
“Yesterday, the President presented me with the high honor of not one, but three separate mentions on Twitter. He also talked about our relationship, which goes back several years, in a press conference yesterday afternoon. President Trump seems to think, in 1998, I was opposed to the public release of the Starr report—and that he has caught me changing my mind on the subject. Let me set the record straight.
“In 1998, the debate was not about Congress receiving evidence. Congress had already received the full, 445-page report and 17 boxes of additional documents, including grand jury material. We are owed that same opportunity today.
“In 1998, the central debate was about the public release of some of the materials accompanying the Starr report—materials that Congress already had, and that described private sexual acts in lurid detail. Congress has no business broadcasting graphic accounts of the President’s sex life. It was inappropriate in 1998. It would be inappropriate today. Our focus should be on the law. That is where our focus will remain so long as I am Chairman.
“We are dealing now, not with the President’s private affairs, but with a sustained attack on the integrity of the republic by the President and his closest advisors. This Committee requires the full report and the underlying materials because it is our job, not the Attorney General’s, to determine whether or not President Trump has abused his office.
“And we require the report because one day, one way or another, the country will move on from President Trump. We must make it harder for future presidents to behave this way. We need a full accounting of the President’s actions to do that work.
“Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to support the resolution.”