None of the six Democrats who have been provided access to a less-redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report have gone to the Justice Department to read it, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Republicans and the Justice Department have criticized Democrats for not at least reading the less-redacted version of the report released to lawmakers while they negotiate over access to the fully unredacted report and underlying materials.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham have read it, along with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, have seen it, according to the source, while House Intelligence ranking member Devin Nunes has not.
The Justice Department offered 12 congressional leaders – party leaders and the heads of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees – and a staff member each the ability to view a version of the Mueller report that only contained redactions of grand jury material, which the Justice Department has argued it is prohibited by law from sharing without a court order. That version of the report contains material that was redacted in the public report because it was classified, connected to ongoing investigations or contained information about peripheral third parties.
But Democrats rejected that proposal from the Justice Department in their quest to obtain the full, unredacted Mueller report and the special counsel’s underlying evidence. They argued they should be allowed to read the full report, with grand jury material, and they also objected to the fact that only the six congressional leaders from each party can read the less-redacted report, pushing for the full Intelligence and Judiciary Committees to be allowed to read it.
The Justice Department and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler negotiated over the unredacted report and Mueller’s evidence earlier this week before Nadler’s committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress on Wednesday. If the issue eventually heads to federal court, Democrats will be forced to explain their need for the materials and may be asked why they haven’t reviewed the materials made available to date.
Notably, Nunes is the only Republican lawmaker authorized to read the report who has not done so to date. Nunes has a history of not reading Justice Department records, even ones he demands. CNN reported last year that he fought for access to a fully uncensored version of a Justice Department document explaining how the Russia investigation began, but then did not read it when the department made it available to him.
In Democrats’ negotiations with the Justice Department, they rejected an offer that would have allowed for an additional staff member review the less-redacted report, for lawmakers to take their notes from the secure facility and for lawmakers to talk amongst those cleared to read the document. Nadler rejected that offer. In the Democrats’ last offer before negotiations ended on Tuesday, Nadler proposed allowing the full membership of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees to read the less-redacted report.
“The department has placed unacceptable limitations on access to that information,” Nadler said at Wednesday’s contempt hearing. “Their offer would block the members of this committee from reading those sections of the report for themselves. … It would prevent me from speaking with my colleagues with other members of the committee about what I might see. What good is it? Of what use can this committee make of information that I have but can’t discuss with any other member of the committee?”
The Justice Department has argued that the less-redacted report was an effort to be accommodating, and Republicans say their refusal to read it shows they aren’t seriously negotiating.
“Could it be that the attorney general failed to accommodate the chairman’s demands for information? No. He offered to let the chairman and five other Democrat leaders review the less redacted report at the Department of Justice, including 99.9% unredacted volume on obstruction,” Collins said at the Barr contempt hearing. “In an odd move for anyone demanding access to information, the chairman and other elected Democrats given access have declined to view that report.”