President Donald Trump is blasting Democrats for trying to obtain special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, despite previously endorsing their goal of releasing it to the public.
He is attacking Democrats for trying to do something he ostensibly supports: Letting the American people see Mueller’s findings on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, allegations of collusion between his campaign and the Russians, and potential obstruction of justice.
“I’ll rely on the attorney general to make decisions,” Trump said Tuesday at the White House. “But I will tell you, anything that is given to (Democrats) will never be good enough. You could give them more documents than they’ve ever seen, and it would never be good enough.”
All along, Trump has maintained that he’ll defer to Attorney General William Barr when it comes to releasing the report, and Barr has promised “transparency.” But as Barr prepares to share the report with Congress – a process he says could take another week or two – it looks like Trump might be realizing the dangers of giving Democrats what they want.
The President is well-known for often changing his mind, and he still has time to assert more control over the process if he wants to. Trump could be giving himself an off-ramp by saying his Democratic foes will never be satisfied, even if they see the nearly 400-page report.
That’s because Democrats are also clamoring for the underlying materials from Mueller’s investigation – an avalanche of documents, readouts of witness interviews, memos about search warrants, and other details. If they can pry these documents loose from the Justice Department, Democrats could try to use them to damage Trump’s standing and keep the Mueller investigation in the news far beyond the conclusion of his investigation.
Trump has singled out House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York, and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, two top Democrats who have threatened to subpoena the Justice Department or even take the Trump administration to court to get a copy of Mueller’s original, unredacted work.
“There is no amount of testimony or document production that can satisfy Jerry Nadler or Shifty Adam Schiff,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to authorize a subpoena for the full report from the Justice Department. Nadler said he won’t issue the subpoena right away and will give Barr a chance to voluntarily hand over the unredacted report and Mueller’s underlying materials.
Trump’s new tack was echoed by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who said Tuesday that Democratic efforts to get the Mueller report proved that they were “sore losers.”
These comments show the new tone the White House is striking. Last month, Trump surprised many when he said the report should be public, agreeing with a key Democratic demand.
“I don’t mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House if you want, let them see it,” Trump said on March 20, referring to the unanimous vote by the House of Representatives backing the report’s public release. “…Let it come out. Let people see it. That’s up to the attorney general. We have a very good attorney general and has a very highly respected man and well see what happens.”
He reiterated that position days later, saying on March 25 that the decision to release the Mueller report was “up to the attorney general, but it wouldn’t bother me at all.”
An overwhelming majority of Americans agree with that point. A CNN poll, conducted before the investigation ended, found that 87% of Americans wanted the Mueller report to be public.
Mueller spent nearly two years investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates helped the Kremlin’s efforts. Barr says the investigation did not establish that there was collusion with Russia. Barr also said Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion on obstruction – the report didn’t implicate Trump in any crimes, but didn’t exonerate him either.