Top Intel Democrat warns the administration is 'laying the groundwork to withhold' Mueller's evidence — and blame Comey as an excuse
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has been at the forefront of Democratic and Congressional oversight of President Donald Trump's ties to Russia and the ongoing special counsel investigation. And Thursday evening, he published an op-ed in USA Today warning that the Trump administration appears to be planning to withhold key parts of Robert Mueller's final report from the American people.
"Last week, the House voted 420-0 to make special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings and report public," he wrote. "With narrow redactions for classified information, we expect the public release not only of Barr’s report regarding Mueller’s activities but also of Mueller’s complete report to the attorney general."
He noted that Attorney General William Barr, who under regulation has discretion about which parts, if any, of a final report he releases. Any substantial exercise of this authority, Schiff argued, is "completely unacceptable."
The Justice Department and the intelligence community are obligated to share with the intelligence committees any counterintelligence findings and information related to the president or those in his orbit, including evidence collected by the special counsel’s office or ancillary investigations by the FBI. If the president or anyone around him has been compromised by a hostile foreign power — whether criminal or not — that compromise must be exposed to protect the country.
Nevertheless, there are troubling suggestions that the attorney general may resist. In recent public remarks, the outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cast doubt on the need for transparency. Last week, two anonymous sources described as senior department officials told ABC News that if Justice chose to withhold information from Mueller’s investigation, doing so would be consistent with past practices.
On Twitter, he said that DOJ is "laying the groundwork to withhold evidence from the American people" which "would pose a great danger to our country."
When Democrats were in the minority of the House in 2017 and 2018, Schiff consistently pointed out that Republican efforts to obtain information about the Hillary Clinton email investigation from the department seemed to stretch accepted precedent — precedent that now means that Congress is entitled to extensive disclosures about the Mueller probe.
But in his op-ed, he said that the Justice Department plans to "blame" its disclosures in the Clinton email case on former FBI Director James Comey and the fact that he initially broke protocol by discussing his conclusions in that case openly and before Congress. Schiff pointed out that this is a ridiculous double standard, particularly when the subject of the Mueller probe is much more crucial to the integrity of the U.S. government and the security of the country. Schiff could also have noted, though he didn't, that the "Comey factor" could also apply in this case, since he openly discussed the ongoing investigation, first in Congress and since then as a private citizen.
"Finally, the Justice Department's policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted makes the need for transparency even more compelling," Schiff concluded. "If the department holds that the president cannot be indicted, but at the same time withholds evidence of his wrongdoing from Congress and the public — that is a recipe for impunity."