Posts tagged with "Department of Justice"

Judge appoints ‘hard-charging former prosecutor and judge’ to take on DOJ in Flynn case

May 15, 2020

Not so fast: Although the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Bill Barr, dropped charges against Michael Flynn on May 7, Judge Emmet Sullivan—the federal adjudicator on the case—refused to simply fall in line.

After reassessing the evidence and arguments against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Judge Sullivan appointed “a hard-charging former prosecutor and judge”on Wednesday, May 13, to oppose the DOJ’s effort to drop the case and to explore a perjury charge against Flynn, The New York Times reported.

The Times noted that the appointment of retired judge, John Gleeson, was an “extraordinary move in a case with acute political overtones.” Flynn had pleaded guilty twice to lying to investigators as part of a larger inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Flynn later began fighting the charge and sought to withdraw his guilty plea. Then last week, the Justice Department abruptly moved to drop the charge after a long campaign by President Trump and his supporters, prompting accusations that Attorney General Bill Barr had undermined the rule of law and further politicized the department.

Judge Sullivan also asked Judge Gleeson to explore the possibility that by trying to withdraw his pleas, Flynn opened himself to perjury charges.

The Justice Department declined to comment, when contacted by the Times. Judge Gleeson did not respond to a request for comment. Judge Sullivan had said on Tuesday that he would consider briefs from outsiders known as amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” who opposed the government’s request to dismiss the case against Flynn.

While judges do sometimes appoint such third parties to represent an interest they feel is not being heard in a case, Judge Sullivan’s move was highly unusual, Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Duke University, told the Times.

Judge Sullivan, he said, is essentially bringing in an outsider to represent the point of view of the original prosecutors, who believed Flynn had committed a crime before Barr intervened and essentially replaced them with a prosecutor willing to say he had not.

“This is extraordinary for the judge to appoint somebody to argue against a prosecutors’ motion to dismiss a criminal case,” Buell told the news outlet. “But it’s extraordinary for a prosecutor to move to dismiss this sort of criminal case.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Thousands of former DOJ employees again call for Barr’s resignation

May 12, 2020

On May 11, more than 1,900 former Justice Department employees repeated their demand for Attorney General Bill Barr to head for the exits—asserting in an open letter that he had “once again assaulted the rule of law” by moving to drop charges against President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael  Flynn, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The letter, organized by the nonprofit group Protect Democracy, was signed by Justice Department staffers serving in Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961). The vast majority were former career staffers — rather than political appointees — who worked as federal prosecutors or supervisors at U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country or the Justice Department in downtown Washington.

The signatories to the letter were united in their belief that Barr should resign, as the following excerpt shows:

In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States …. The Department [of Justice] has now moved to dismiss the charges against Flynn, in a filing signed by a single political appointee and no career prosecutors. The Department’s purported justification for doing so does not hold up to scrutiny, given the ample evidence that the investigation was well-founded and — more importantly—the fact that Flynn admitted under oath and in open court that he told material lies to the FBI in violation of longstanding federal law.

Make no mistake: The Department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented. If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.

We thus unequivocally support the decision of the career prosecutor who withdrew from the Flynn case, just as we supported the prosecutors who withdrew from the Stone case. They are upholding the oath that we all took, and we call on their colleagues to continue to follow their example. President Trump accused the career investigators and prosecutors involved in the Flynn case of “treason” and threatened that they should pay “a big price.” It is incumbent upon the other branches of government to protect from retaliation these public servants and any others who are targeted for seeking to uphold their oaths of office and pursue justice.

It is now up to the district court to consider the government’s motion to dismiss the Flynn indictment. We urge Judge Sullivan to closely examine the Department’s stated rationale for dismissing the charges — including holding an evidentiary hearing with witnesses — and to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate. While it is rare for a court to deny the Department’s request to dismiss an indictment, if ever there were a case where the public interest counseled the court to take a long, hard look at the government’s explanation and the evidence, it is this one. Attorney General Barr’s repeated actions to use the Department as a tool to further President Trump’s personal and political interests have undermined any claim to the deference that courts usually apply to the Department’s decisions about whether or not to prosecute a case.

Finally, in our previous statement, we called on Attorney General Barr to resign, although we recognized then that there was little chance that he would do so. We continue to believe that it would be best for the integrity of the Justice Department and for our democracy for Attorney General Barr to step aside. In the meantime, we call on Congress to hold the Attorney General accountable. In the midst of the greatest public health crisis our nation has faced in over a century, we would all prefer it if Congress could focus on the health and prosperity of Americans, not threats to the health of our democracy. Yet Attorney General Barr has left Congress with no choice. Attorney General Barr was previously set to give testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31, but the hearing was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the Committee to reschedule Attorney General Barr’s testimony as soon as safely possible and demand that he answer for his abuses of power. We also call upon Congress to formally censure Attorney General Barr for his repeated assaults on the rule of law in doing the President’s personal bidding rather than acting in the public interest. Our democracy depends on a Department of Justice that acts as an independent arbiter of equal justice, not as an arm of the president’s political apparatus.

A spokeswoman for Barr did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. However, Barr has publicly defended the move, telling CBS News that it was an “easy” decision and one for which he was prepared to take criticism. As the group of Justice Department alumni acknowledged, their letter is unlikely to persuade him to step down.

“I also think it’s sad that nowadays these partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice,” Barr told CBS News. “And the groups that usually worry about civil liberties and making sure that there’s proper procedures followed and standards set seem to be ignoring it and willing to destroy people’s lives and see great injustices done.”

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan must still approve the department’s request to drop the case, and so far has not indicated what he will do. The Justice Department alumni asked Sullivan to hold a hearing with witnesses to examine Barr’s legal reasoning and “to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Trump calls Michael Flynn ‘a hero’ after DOJ drops charges

May 11, 2020

Thanks to Attorney General Bill Barr, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may now be free and clear of the federal charges to which he pleaded guilty in December 2017—and President Donald Trump is a happy man.

After Barr’s Department of Justice dropped charges on May 7, Trump—who has said that he would be open to bringing Flynn back to the White House—showered praise on his former aide, calling him “an innocent man,” “a great gentleman” and “a hero,” according to a report by Forbes.

Indeed, the president has been a strong supporter of Flynn throughout the three years that the case against him has been on the books : In February 2017, after just weeks on the job, Flynn was (reluctantly) fired from his post at the White House after he gave false statements about his relationship with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence, FBI investigators, White House aides, and the media.

Flynn admitted to talks with the ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration, during which he had promised to ease Russian sanctions instituted by the Obama administration, the news outlet noted. In pleading guilty, Flynn said “I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right …. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

Nevertheless, after the Justice Department moved to drop charges against Flynn for lying to the FBI (and others in the administration) about Russian contacts, Trump celebrated the news and launched into a rant about the Justice Department under President Barack Obama—saying the department’s investigation into Flynn was treasonous, Forbes reports.

Treason, which carries a penalty of death, has a strict definition: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere.”

However, Forbes said, Trump hurled insults at the former administration, calling them “dishonest crooked people” and “human scum,” while also claiming the media is “very complicit” and that people who won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting are “not journalists, they’re thieves.”

Indeed, according to Forbes, Trump and Flynn’s team have latched on to newly unsealed documents that they claim showcase corruption in Flynn’s charging. Handwritten notes from the FBI detail how they will conduct an interview with Flynn in 2017. “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired? If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ and have them decide. Or, if he initially lies, then we present him [redacted] and he admits it, document for DOJ and let them decide how to address it.”

The notes also say, “If we’re seen as playing games, [White House] will be furious. Protect our institution by not playing games ….We regularly show subjects evidence, with the goal of getting them to admit their wrongdoing. I don’t see how getting someone to admit their wrongdoing is going easy on him.”

What will happen next? Judge Emmet Sullivan, the presiding judge on the case, is no pushover. While the DOJ has dismissed its charges, Sullivan knows that Flynn pleaded guilty—and may be unlikely to let him off so easily. He is also is not likely to introduce the equivocal and inconclusive new documents at this juncture.

Stay tuned.

Research contact: @Forbes

All four Roger Stone prosecutors resign from case after ‘Scofflaw AG’ pushes for shorter sentence

February 13, 2020

Attorney General Bill Barr has become the nation’s leading scofflaw, as he continues to put the president and his henchmen ahead of his own Constitutional duties.

Indeed, the entire team prosecuting Roger Stone abruptly resigned from the criminal case on Tuesday, February 12, NBC News reports, after the Justice Department announced that the recommended sentence for Stone, a longtime Trump associate, would be reduced.

The request for a shorter sentence for Stone than the recommended term of seven to nine years in prison came after President Donald Trump blasted the sentencing proposal as “a miscarriage of justice.”

The revised recommendation doesn’t ask for a particular sentence but says the one that was recommended earlier “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter” and that the actual sentence should be “far less.”

It urges the judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, to consider Stone’s “advanced age, health, personal circumstances, and lack of criminal history in fashioning an appropriate sentence,” the network news outlet notes.

“The defendant committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration,” but based “on the facts known to the government, a sentence of between 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment, however, could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances. Ultimately, the government defers to the Court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case,” the filing said.

After reports that a softer sentencing recommendation was imminent, lead prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky withdrew as a prosecutor in the case. A footnote in his court filing noted that “the undersigned attorney had resigned effective immediately.”

Zelinsky, who was a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election interference, is not resigning from the Justice Department but is leaving the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and returning to his old job with the U.S. attorney in Maryland.

Another prosecutor, Jonathan Kravis, also resigned—both from the case and as an assistant U.S. attorney. Kravis on Tuesday filed a notice with the judge saying he “no longer represents the government in this matter.” The other two prosecutors, Adam Jed and Michael Marando, also withdrew from the case, NBC News reporrted.

Trump in a tweet earlier Tuesday called the department’s initial sentencing proposal “disgraceful!

“This is a horrible and very unfair situation,” the president wrote in a follow-up post on Twitter. “The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”

Top Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec told NBC News that the decision to reverse course on the sentencing recommendation was made prior to Trump’s almost 2 a.m. tweet.

The president told reporters in the Oval Office later Tuesday that he did not speak to DOJ about Stone’s sentencing. “I’d be able to do it if I wanted. I have the absolute right to do it. I stay out of things to a degree that people wouldn’t believe,” he said, before adding that he “thought the recommendation was ridiculous. I thought the whole prosecution was ridiculous.”

“I thought it was an insult to our country and it shouldn’t happen,” Trump said. “These are the same Mueller people who put everybody through hell and I think it’s a disgrace.”

In another tweet, the president suggested that the prosecutors had abused their authority. “Prosecutorial Misconduct?” he wrote in response to a tweet suggesting a pardon for Stone.

In response, NBC News reported, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York)  called on the Justice Department Inspector General to “open an investigation immediately.”

“The president seems to think the entire Justice Department is just his personal lawsuit to prosecute his enemies and help his friends. Rule of law in this grand tradition in this wonderful Justice Department is just being totally perverted to Donald Trump’s own personal desires and needs and it’s a disgrace,” Schumer told reporters in Washington. “Roger Stone should get the full amount of time the prosecutors recommended and we’re going to do some oversight of that.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Brinksmanship: Unable to cut deal, Nadler soon may subpoena Mueller to testify before U.S. public

June 12, 2019

When and if former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress, his face will be familiar—but the story he tells won’t be, according to findings of a CNN poll fielded in May, which found that fully 75% of Americans have not read the Mueller report on Russian interference into the last presidential election and obstruction of justice by the Trump administration.

Most legislators have failed to read the 448-page document, either.

But that doesn’t include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York)—who  told Democratic leaders at a closed-door meeting this past week that he could issue a subpoena to within two weeks to Mueller, if he is unable to reach an agreement to secure the former special counsel’s public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the meeting, Politico reported.

Nadler’s comments clarified whether the chairman had considered compelling Mueller’s attendance at a public hearing. The committee is still negotiating with Mueller, who, according to Nadler, is thus far only willing to answer lawmakers’ questions in private—a nonstarter for most House Democrats.

The sources cautioned the news outlet that the committee has not settled yet on a timetable for a potential subpoena to Mueller. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) hosted the meeting, and four other committee chairs were in attendance.

However, according to Politico’s sources, Nadler told reporters that he was “confident” Mueller will appear before his panel, and that he would issue a subpoena “if we have to.”

“We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that,” Nadler added. “I think, frankly, it’s his duty to the American people. And we’ll make that happen.”

This week, the committee began to hear testimony related to the report, in an effort to educate the American public.

In addition, Nadler said that, with the threat of a civil contempt citation from the committee hanging over his head, Attorney General William Barr had agreed to release the underlying documents to the report, which had been requested by the House Judiciary Committee back in April.

However, on June 11, word came out that the White House would work with the Department of Justice to decide exactly how much (and what type of) material would be released—leaving the actual evidence that the committee would be permitted to see in question yet again.

Research contact: @politico

Trump: ‘I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected’

May 31, 2019

President Donald Trump veered off from his “No collusion!” tweets on May 30 to refer to Russia President Vladimir Putin’s admitted preference for his candidacy during the 2016 U.S. elections, Vox reports.

The morning after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s media event—at which he resigned from the Department of Justice and took the opportunity to inform Americans that, if he had thought the president was innocent of obstruction, he would have said so—Trump engaged in one of his rambling tweetstorms.

“Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax,” the president tweeted on May 30. “And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist.”

In other words, Vox notes, Trump was saying, “The Kremlin tried to help me win, but I didn’t coordinate with them.”

Just an hour later, however, he told reporters outside the White House that Russia didn’t have anything to do with helping him win, contradicting his own tweet. “I got me elected. Russia didn’t help me at all,” the president said.

Still, the tweet was the first time that Trump implied that Russia had facilitated his win in 2016. He repeatedly has supported the story that the Kremlin did not aim to sway the election in his favor.

“I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said alongside the Russian leader at their summit in Helsinki last July.

Research contact: @voxdotcom

Mueller: ‘No confidence’ that Trump didn’t commit obstruction of justice

May 30, 2019

If the House Judiciary Committee wants Robert Mueller to testify about his investigative report in front of live cameras and the American public, the panel will have to subpoena him, the special counsel made clear at a news conference on May 29.

He also made it abundantly clear that the investigative team could not exonerate President Donald Trump of criminal obstruction of justice —but also could not charge him with it under Department of Justice rules.

Appearing at an 11 a.m. media event staged at the DoJ, Mueller announced that he was wrapping up the investigation, closing the Special Counsel’s Office, and resigning from the agency to return to private life.

During his brief statement, Mueller said that he had nothing to add to what had been written in the 448-page report—and confirmed two conclusions of his team’s investigation: First, he said that there was interference by a foreign enemy in the 2016 election, “As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system.

“The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber-techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks,” Mueller noted, adding, “ The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. And at the same time as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.”

Second, he addressed obstruction of justice by the Executive Office, commenting, “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

The second volume of the report describes the results and analysis of the special counsel’s obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.

Mueller then went on to confirm what President Donald Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr, and the G.O.P. have denied to date: “As set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.

He said that, although the investigative team could not clear Trump of obstruction of justice, they also could not charge him with a federal crime while he is in office. “That is unconstitutional,” Mueller explained.” Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.”

Indeed, the special counsel said, “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider … Beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially—it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.”

Mueller concluded by saying, “I will … [reiterate] the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Research contact: @RepJerryNadler

Just humor him: Trump was joking about loving WikiLeaks, Sarah Sanders says

April 16, 2019

“I love WikiLeaks,” Donald Trump exulted in October 2016 during a campaign rally. “Boy, they are good. You gotta read WikiLeaks!” ended

But on April 11—after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London and ejected from Ecuador’s embassy following his seven-year asylum there—President Trump told reporters at the White House, “I know nothing about WikiLeaks.”

“It’s not my thing,” he added, according to an April 14 report by NBC News.

And White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quick to come to his defense. “Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign,” Sanders told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace about Trump’s past praise for WikiLeaks.

Sanders spoke about Trump’s WikiLeaks remarks after the Department of Justice charged the website’s fugitive founder Julian Assange with computer hacking following his arrest in London, partly in connection with a U.S. extradition warrant.

The Department of Justice indicted Assange on a charge of conspiring with former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to hack a classified government computer. Manning provided WikiLeaks with a trove of secret government documents that the website published in 2010.

In his own defense, NBC News reports, Assange has insisted that the United States is trying to infringe on journalistic freedom.

Assange and WIkiLeaks were at the forefront of leaking stolen emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, including from 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Democrats: Trump’s move to terminate Obamacare gives us a gift ahead of 2020

March 28, 2019

In a move that has appalled his own advisers, and alarmed the G.O.P. as a whole, President Donald Trump on March 27 began a legal effort to “essentially terminate” the entire Affordable Care Act ―including its heretofore sacrosanct pre-existing conditions protections.

About half of Americans—133 million—have a health issue that qualifies as a pre-existing condition. Under the ACA, also known as Obamacare, insurers have been banned from denying coverage for (or from charging more for plans that cover) pre-existing conditions.

And American voters have made it clear that they like it that way. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation just before the midterm elections last November, fully 58% of Americans said they were “very concerned” that Republicans would remove this safeguard—and expose them either to higher costs or no coverage at all.

In fact, at that time, healthcare was top-of-mind for U.S. voters—and indications are that it continues to be.

According to a report by the Huffington Post,  Democrats are saying that the president’s extreme position on the ACA will matter far more to voters in 2020 than anything coming out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

And while Republicans have said for years that the ACA should be “repealed and replaced,” they are not so sure that the issue should be revisited at this time.

It comes down to this: On March 25, the Department of Justice asked federal courts to throw out all of Obamacare, not just one part of it, as it had done previously. If the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is weighing the lawsuit, agrees with the government, the matter will almost certainly go before the Supreme Court, which has already turned away two major challenges to the 2010 healthcare law, the Huffington Post notes. With two new Trump-picked justices on the high court, however, there is no telling whether the law would survive a third.

“This move by the Trump administration to take away health care will prove far more detrimental to the administration and the Republican Party than any gains they might have made by the issuance” of Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing the findings of Mueller’s investigation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York.) said on March 26.

 “They are literally teeing this up as an issue for Democrats for the next year and a half. They’re not even making a laughable attempt to save the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act,” Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) told reporters on Tuesday.

Vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2020, whose seats Democrats need to win in order to take back control of the Senate, are likely to face additional attacks over healthcare following the Trump administration’s new stance on the lawsuit. But GOP leaders say they have confidence in their members to fend off attacks over Obamacare going into the 2020 election.

By contrast, the Huffington Post reports, G.O.P. senators facing tough re-election fights in 2020 said they support popular elements of the Affordable Care Act even as they continue to maintain that the law should be repealed ― a delicate rhetorical balancing act that failed to save many GOP members of Congress in the 2018 midterm election.

“I support coverage for pre-existing provisions, and Congress should act to make sure that happens. I think what we need to do is make sure we have affordable health care,” Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), who is facing a tough campaign, told reporters.

Only Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who voted against repealing Obamacare in 2017, criticized the decision to argue in court that the entire law should be struck down as unconstitutional.

“It is highly unusual for the [Department of Justice] not to defend duly enacted laws, which the Affordable Care Act certainly was. This decision to even go more broadly in failing to defend the law is very disappointing,” Collins said.

Research contact: @HuffPost

House chairs to AG Barr: Trump is ‘not above the law’ and Mueller report should be public

February 24, 2019

On February 22, the chairs of six House committees wrote to newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General William Barr to inform him of their expectation that he will make Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report public “without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.” The letter follows news reports that suggest the Special Counsel investigation is nearing an end.

The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Committee on Financial Services Chairperson Maxine Waters, Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, and Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel.

“As you know,” they said, “Department of Justice regulations require that, ‘[a]t the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.’”

The American people, they said, have a right to see the findings—noting, “After nearly two years of investigation—accompanied by two years of direct attacks on the integrity of the investigation by the President—the public is entitled to know what the Special Counsel has found.  We write to you to express, in the strongest possible terms, our expectation that the Department of Justice will release to the public the report Special Counsel Mueller submits to you—without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

In addition, they said, there is “significant public interest” in the full disclosure of information learned by the Special Counsel about the nature and scope of the Russian government’s efforts to undermine our democracy.

Therefore, “…[if] the Department believes that certain aspects of the report are not suitable for immediate public release, we ask that you provide that information to Congress, along with your reasoning for withholding the information from the public, in order for us to judge the appropriateness of any redactions for ourselves.”

Specifically addressing comments by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concerning the agency’s reluctance to release materials on individuals who are not under indictment, the committee chairpersons wrote, “Finally, although we recognize the policy of the Department to remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of individuals who will not face criminal charges, we feel that it is necessary to address the particular danger of withholding evidence of misconduct by President Trump from the relevant committees.”

They concluded with a strong demand—stating that, “If the Special Counsel has reason to believe that the President has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct, then the President must be subject to accountability either in a court or to the Congress.

“But because the Department has taken the position that a sitting President is immune from indictment and prosecution,” the chairpersons said, “Congress could be the only institution currently situated to act on evidence of the President’s misconduct.  To maintain that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and then to withhold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because the President will not be charged, is to convert Department policy into the means for a cover-up.  The President is not above the law.”

Research contact: @HouseIntel