Former federal prosecutor explains what Democrats will do now that the Mueller report is complete
Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is finally complete, and Attorney General William Barr plans to release the summary findings to the relevant congressional committees soon, with potentially more to come later.
There is still some work to be seen through by the Justice Department, namely the sentencing of President Donald Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and the trial of former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone. But the investigative phase of the special counsel's probe has reached its conclusion.
So what should House Democrats' next step be?
The most obvious answer would be to read the report, release it to the public, hold investigations into its contents when necessary, and — should the evidence provide a clear rationale for it — begin writing articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. But it may not be that simple, because it is unclear how much of the report Barr intends to give to Congress. Trump could also assert executive privilege to shield the parts of it that include communications with his own officials, and it is unclear whether Barr will push back on this.
As former federal prosecutor Elie Hoenig writes for CNN, the big preoccupation for House Democrats right now is to make sure that the full report is made public, and to force the administration to do so if need be:
House Democrats have made clear they will settle for nothing less than the entire Mueller report, unedited and unredacted. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff has already announced he will subpoena the Mueller report, and possibly Mueller himself, if relevant information is excluded from the report or otherwise kept from Congress.A congressional subpoena to the executive branch would spark a separation of powers showdown for the ages, pitting the core oversight function of the legislative branch against the investigative imperative of the executive branch. Such a dispute, like a fight over executive privilege, likely would go directly to the Supreme Court, and the outcome could turn on the judicial and ideological worldviews of the justices.
Trump may believe that the affair is over now that Mueller has delivered his report. But the fireworks are only just beginning.