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U.S. House Judiciary Committee poised to subpoena full Mueller report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic-led U.S. House Judiciary Committee said it will vote on Wednesday on whether to authorise subpoenas to obtain Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Lawmakers will also consider subpoenas for underlying evidence from Mueller’s investigation and from five former aides to President Donald Trump, including White House counsel Donald McGahn and political adviser Steve Bannon. The committee said on Monday that they may have documents related to the Mueller probe.

Democrats have become increasingly frustrated over U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s plan to share only a redacted copy of the nearly 400-page investigative report with Congress. The committee will vote on a resolution to allow House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler to issue subpoenas at his own discretion.

The Mueller report describes his office’s 22-month probe, which did not establish that members of Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia but also did not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice, according to a four-page summary Barr released on March 24.

Barr said Mueller’s team had not found enough proof to warrant bringing obstruction charges against the president.

Trump and the White House have hailed the conclusions as a victory for the president. But Democrats have taken issue with Barr’s intervention.

“Congress, not the attorney general, has a duty under the Constitution to determine whether wrongdoing has occurred,” Nadler wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) listens as Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Feb..8, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

“It is not the attorney general’s job to step in and substitute his judgement for the special counsel’s. That responsibility falls to Congress - and specifically to the House Judiciary Committee - as it has in every similar investigation in modern history.”

A week ago, Nadler and the Democratic heads of five other House committees gave Barr until Tuesday to provide the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. Barr said he would issue his redacted version by mid-April or sooner.

Trump on Monday took aim at Democrats in the aftermath of the Mueller probe.

“No matter what information is given to the crazed Democrats from the No Collusion Mueller Report, it will never be good enough. Behind closed doors the Dems are laughing!” the president said on Twitter.

Republicans on the judiciary panel say Congress does not need the unredacted Mueller report to do its job and accuse Democrats of setting arbitrary deadlines as part of a partisan campaign to undermine Trump ahead of the 2020 election.

“The attorney general has already demonstrated transparency above and beyond what is required,” Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the judiciary committee, said in a statement.

But Democrats say Republicans helped set a precedent for Congress to obtain underlying investigative material during their investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

The committee said the Justice Department gave Congress more than 880,000 pages of internal investigative records from the Clinton probe as well as classified and sensitive law enforcement information from an early Russia probe that Mueller took over.

In addition to McGahn and Bannon, the committee will consider subpoenas for former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former White House deputy counsel Ann Donaldson.

The five former Trump aides were among 81 individuals, agencies and other entities that received document requests on March 4 as part of the committee’s obstruction and corruption investigation of Trump and his associates.

Reporting by David Morgan and David Alexander in Washington; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and James Dalgleish