Congressional Lawmakers Continue To Work Through Findings Of Mueller Report

Apr 18, 2019
Originally published on April 18, 2019 7:45 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In the studio with us now, we have NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Hey there, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

CORNISH: So let's talk about what the senator just had to say. What strikes you?

SNELL: You know, I thought it was very interesting that he talked about the voters in 2020 being the ones who get to ultimately decide about this report. I think that is largely keeping in line with what we're hearing from a lot of Democrats talking about voters making a political decision, not Congress making a political decision about impeachment.

And I think that we're going to see that message evolve over time. And it might be something really difficult for Democrats to handle among themselves, as some parts of their progressive wing push for impeachment or other, you know, very aggressive moves by Congress.

CORNISH: Right, in some cases, campaigned on it.

SNELL: Yeah. That is - it has already been something that has split Democrats, and I can imagine that that will continue to happen after this report.

CORNISH: We're talking with Kelsey Snell right now because we are continuing our coverage of the redacted Mueller report released today.

Back to you, Kelsey Snell. So what are Democrats saying on the Hill as they are digesting this report? And we should say - right - we're talking a couple hundred pages, so people are theoretically still reading.

SNELL: Yes. And we are getting a lot of statements from people saying that they are still reading and that they may be withholding judgment about some parts of this. But a lot of the reaction from Democrats is more or less what we would expect. They say they have evidence and reason to keep investigating President Trump and his associates. And they say this report really bolsters that.

One notable trend is that they are really focusing on whether or not Attorney General Barr misled them with his original characterization of the Mueller report. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler was explicit about this in a press conference in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JERRY NADLER: Attorney General Barr appears to have shown an unsettling willingness to undermine his own department in order to protect President Trump. Barr's words and actions suggest he has been disingenuous and misleading in saying the president is clear of wrongdoing.

SNELL: Now, he is not alone in this either. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, released a joint statement where they said the differences are stark between what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what special counsel Mueller said on obstruction. And they said that as they continue to review the report that they believe that Barr presented a conclusion that did not represent what Mueller found. And they're giving a really strong impression that they're going to take a hard-line tack.

But again, they're not talking about impeachment. They're not talking about specific steps. So it's really not clear yet how this is going to manifest.

CORNISH: Republicans were largely pleased with the summary that the attorney general released a few weeks ago. I assume that the report didn't really change much of that for them today.

SNELL: Right. And they also fall into this two camps of saying - some people saying that they are still reading it and then a group of people who are responding in the way that we would expect from Republicans. The ones who are speaking up are defending the president. There - some are saying that he's been fully vindicated.

And they focus primarily on the question of whether or not there was collusion with the Russians. Take Steve Scalise, who's the Republican whip in the House. He says Democrats owe the American people an apology. He says there was no collusion and no obstruction and referred to what Democrats have done over the past couple years as a smear campaign.

We also heard from Kevin McCarthy, who's Republican leader in the House. And he says nothing has - changes, that this is exactly what they had expected out of the Mueller report for the past 22 months.

CORNISH: Just to go back to something we heard a little bit from the senator earlier. I mean, Democrats have been very focused on the question of obstruction by the president. And as we've been talking about, Mueller doesn't offer an official judgment on the report, leaves it to Congress to come to its conclusion. What does this mean for Democrats, particularly in the House, if they are, as you're saying, hinting that they're not talking about impeachment in as strong terms?

SNELL: Right. Yeah. This is the kind of fodder Democrats really did need to move forward. They needed to be able to point to some sort of evidence that says, yes, there are unfounded or undecided parts of this. And it specifically says investigators wanted to preserve and maintain evidence and - for testimony in future prosecution or congressional action, and that sets up those next steps.

CORNISH: How likely are they to get that information?

SNELL: That part is yet to be seen. They really are going to keep pushing for that. And we've already heard some talk of subpoenas or other ways that they could go about getting the information. We do know that they want Attorney General Barr to come testify. He'll be in front of Congress in May. And they're asking for Mueller to appear before the end of May. So we have a couple of weeks ahead of us between - you know, between now and then, we'll see what the administration and what DOJ is willing to produce for those requests.

CORNISH: That's NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, thanks for your reporting.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.