Yesterday’s article in USA Today written by Kevin Johnson and Bart Jansen outlines how Bob Mueller has stayed out of the limelight over the past two years of inquiry into the Russia scandal. The article argues that Bob Mueller’s by the books, buttoned-down approach reflects the special prosecutors’ respect for the rule of law and the process of investigation.
The article goes on to argue that Mueller’s tendency to shun the spotlight and strict adherence to process might very well mean that the general public will never see his final report as there is no legal requirement to make such reports available to the public.
Justice Department rules require that Mueller submit a confidential report when his work is done. William Barr, the man likely to be confirmed as his next boss, cast doubt on whether he would permit that document to be revealed. Those who know him say Mueller, reluctant to speak publicly even when the circumstances seem to require it, is unlikely to do it on his own.
In recent weeks there has been quite a bit of consternation and hand wringing among the media that despite widespread bipartisan support and expectation that the final report will be made public, there is no legal requirements for the Trump Administration or the Department of Justice to release it. Nor is there any protocol by which Bob Mueller could release it himself, either to the public or even to Congress.
As reports of Mueller’s investigation winding down seem to pop up more and more and the public becomes ever more anxious for the final report, there have been numerous calls for Congress to pass legislation that would guarantee the reports public release. President Trump has even hinted that he will release the report, but only if it clears his name.
What everyone seems to be forgetting is that the House of Representatives alone can release Mueller’s report with a just few small steps and without a single Republican vote. The best part is there isn’t anything the President of the United States or the Senate could do about it.
In order for this to happen Mueller needs to finish his report and submit it to William Barr or Rob Rosenstein, whichever is overseeing the investigation when it ultimately concludes. The Department of Justice can then decide to not release the report claiming the classified information would be harmful to national security, or really any rationale they choose.
This is what people are worried about and it would cause an uproar.
However, if that happens the House Intelligence Committee has the power to subpoena the report from the Department of Justice with nothing more than a majority vote by the Intelligence Committee which Democrats control.
At that point, the House Intelligence Committee simply needs to vote to declassify the report, something that is completely within the committee’s powers. This is a power that had never been tested in the history of the Intelligence committee but was finally put to the test last January when the House Intelligence Committee under Devin Nunes voted to declassify it’s flawed and biased memos on the FBI, while at the same time refusing to declassify the Democrats competing memos.
The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday to publicly release a classified memo written by Republicans alleging FBI abuses in the agency’s surveillance, an aggressive move that could feed a GOP push to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and ratchets up a battle with the Justice Department.The committee’s vote to release the memo spearheaded by Chairman Devin Nunes means that the four-page classified document could be made public this week. But in another party-line vote, the committee voted against making a competing Democratic memo from Rep. Adam Schiff of California available as well.(snip)Under an obscure committee rule to make the classified memo public, which has never been invoked in the panel’s 40-plus-year history…
Any member of the committee can request a vote to declassify documents and the committee must meet within five days to vote on it. If the committee approves declassification, it must then notify the president of its intention. The President then has five days to personally object in writing, certifying “that the threat to the national interest of the United States posed by such disclosure is of such gravity that it outweigh any public interest in the disclosure,” if no such written objection is made within 5 days the committee may proceed with disclosing the information.
It’s very possible President Trump would write such a letter and attempt to block the declassification of the report, assuming he’s not too busy with executive time at Mar a Lago, to get out a pen and paper. We should anticipate Trump would immediately respond to the House Intelligence Committee attempting to block the declassification of the report.
However, this would be an extraordinary step that would anger the vast majority of people on both sides of the aisle whose current polls show highly favor the release of the report. Trump stepping in to stop a report about himself from seeing the light of day would drop like an atom bomb on our news cycle.
Fortunately, public outrage would be the exact catalyst needed for the next step in the process, a step that Devin Nunes did not need to take because Trump never objected to Nunes move to declassify.
So what happens next?
If Trump writes an official letter objecting to the declassification of the Mueller Report within 5 days of being notified, the entire House of Representatives can hold a vote on whether to override the President’s objection. If the vote passes the report can be declassified without the need of involving the Senate at all. This means no need for Republican votes of any type. We have the numbers in the House to get this done.
Adam Schiff can vote to subpoena the finished report, and then call a vote to declassify it, they can even preempt Trump’s arguments by redacting sensitive information that could cause national security issues, or put lives at risk and vote to declassify the redacted “Public Consumption” version.
Trump would then respond with a written objection, the public would be livid and the rest of the Democratically held House of Representatives would vote to override his objection and release the report.
My favorite part of this plan, the part that tickles the part of my brain that loves poetic justice, is that this power by the House Intelligence Committee has been around since the committee’s creation, but has never been tested. Just like the authority of all of those DOJ memos that keep the President from being subpoenaed.
The Senate also has their own version of this procedure, but we know that’s a much tougher road to travel. Additionally, if Congress fails us Freedom of Information Act requests can also result in declassification, though that would likely take years.
Hope you enjoyed reading my diary. If anyone knows a way to get Adam Schiff on the record over whether he would be willing to take these extraordinary steps, that would be amazing.
Most of my info comes from here: