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Lawmakers, Justice Dept. meet over more access to Mueller report

By Nicholas Sakelaris and Danielle Haynes
House judiciary committee Chairman Jerry Nadler speaks to a hearing on May 2 that was supposed to feature testimony by Attorney General William Barr, who did not appear. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/37f6a592e09d082e3777e5c6d52ac8f0/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
House judiciary committee Chairman Jerry Nadler speaks to a hearing on May 2 that was supposed to feature testimony by Attorney General William Barr, who did not appear. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

May 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department will meet with House lawmakers Tuesday to negotiate for a less-redacted version of the Mueller report, ahead of a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt after he failed to show up to a hearing over the matter last week.

House judiciary committee chair Jerry Nadler said late Monday he and staff members will meet with department officials. The meeting had been set for Wednesday but both sides agreed to move it to Tuesday.

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"My hope is that we make concrete progress at tomorrow's meeting towards resolving this dispute," Nadler, D-N.Y., said. "The committee remains committed to finding a reasonable accommodation."

For weeks, Democratic lawmakers have been demanding access to the full, non-redacted version of the report, which detailed the department's two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The inquiry also looked for evidence of collusion between Russia and members of President Donald Trump's campaign.

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Barr initially released a four-page summary of the report compiled by special counsel Robert Mueller that said no evidence of collusion was found. It also outlined several instances of potential obstruction of justice involving Trump. A redacted version of the near-400-page report was ultimately released last month.

"It remains vital that the committee obtain access to the full unredacted report and the underlying materials," Nadler said. "At the moment, our plans to consider holding Attorney General Barr accountable for his failure to comply with our subpoena still stand."

The judiciary committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to hold Barr in contempt for not complying with a subpoena for the unredacted report and failing to show up at a committee hearing last week. Barr testified before a Senate panel to answer questions about the report but did not appear for the House committee the following day.

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House Democrats have said the full report is crucial in guarding future elections against Russian interference. The Mueller report confirmed Russian intelligence efforts to hack the 2016 campaign, spread misinformation and leak emails involving Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Nadler has requested a meeting with the Justice Department five times since March 25.

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The department said it had concerns about the committee's "rush" to issue its subpoena after Barr authorized the release of the redacted report. It also emphasized that lawmakers have refused the department's offer to let them see a less-redacted version.

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"Your refusal to review the less redacted report also hinders our ability to engage in a meaningful discussion about what specific information Congress needs in furtherance of its legitimate legislative activities," Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to Nadler Monday.

"We are prepared to discuss the matters raised in your letter, including your request to provide greater access to the less redacted version of the report to members of Congress and staff."

The department said it's willing to negotiate an accommodation that meets the "legitimate interests" of the two sides' "coequal branches of government."

In the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell declared the Mueller investigation "case closed." He accused Democrats of having an "absolute meltdown" over the outcome of the probe.

"With an exhaustive investigation complete, would the country finally unify to confront the real challenges before us? Would we finally be able to move on from partisan paralysis and breathless conspiracy theorizing?" McConnell said from the Senate floor.

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"Or would we remain consumed by unhinged partisanship, and keep dividing ourselves to the point that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his agents need only stand on the sidelines and watch as their job is done for them?"

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., later read parts of the Mueller report from the Senate floor, which formally puts the passages into the Congressional Record.

"Since the majority leader has pronounced his judgment here on the Senate floor, I'd like to spend some time reminding him of exactly what the report said," she said.

The passages she read aloud specifically dealt with alleged efforts by Trump to have former White House counsel Don McGahn fire Mueller.

"There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution," Warren said. "If any other human being in this country had done what's documented in the Mueller report, they'd be arrested and put in jail."

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