After weeks of fighting over access to some of the underlying evidence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller based his report on, the House Democrats have reached an agreement with Attorney General William Barr to turn over some of that evidence (though not all that was requested) to them if they agreed not to hold a floor vote to find Barr in contempt of Congress.
The Justice Department, after weeks of tense negotiations, has agreed to provide Congress with key evidence collected by Robert S. Mueller III that could shed light on possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump, the House Judiciary Committee said on Monday.
The exact scope of the material the Justice Department has agreed to provide was not immediately clear, though the committee signaled that it could be a breakthrough after weeks of wrangling over those materials and others that the Judiciary panel demanded under subpoena. The Trump administration’s blockade of the material had ground the Democratic investigations of Mr. Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power to a halt.The agreement appears to have been foreshadowed in an exchange of letters in recent weeks between the committee and the department. In a May 24 letter outlining a proposed compromise, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee chairman, wrote that he was “prepared to prioritize production of materials that would provide the committee with the most insight into certain incidents when the special counsel found ‘substantial evidence’ of obstruction of justice.”
Those incidences include Mr. Trump’s attempts to fire Mr. Mueller, the special counsel; his request that Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel, create “a fraudulent record denying that incident”; and Mr. Trump’s efforts to get former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to undo his recusal and curtail the scope of the special counsel inquiry.
This seems like a reasonable compromise. The House committee is still going to vote to give Chairman Nadler the authority to invoke contempt of Congress, but the House leadership will then table it and not bring it to a full floor vote. They could always return to it in the future if needed. Among the material expected to be turned over will be the FBI’s 302 reports on their interviews with former White House Counsel Don McGahn and notes from his chief of staff on meetings held in the White House, notes from former AG Jeff Session’s chief of staff and material from Hope Hicks, among other things. That could be very, very valuable in establishing obstruction of justice.