Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is declaring “case closed” on the Russia probe and potential obstruction by President Donald Trump, deriding Democrats who he says are “grieving” the result.
The Republican leader, in his most significant public comments yet on the investigation, opened the Senate Tuesday with a speech discussing how special counsel Robert Mueller’s “exhaustive” probe went on for two years and is now complete. The remarks, which are certain to please the president, are being billed as his final thoughts on the topic.
“It’s finally over,” McConnell said. The Kentucky Republican called Mueller’s findings “bad news for the outrage industrial complex but good news for the rest of the country.”
Republicans, taking their cues from Trump, are eager to push past the investigation.
As McConnell says the Senate is moving on, the Democrat-led House is aggressively pursuing a copy of the full, unredacted Mueller report. Mueller released a redacted version to the public last month, but Democrats want to see the full document, plus underlying documents, and have scheduled a committee vote for Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for not providing it.
Barr did provide a mostly unredacted report to top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who haven’t bothered to read it.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said late Monday that he hopes to make “concrete progress” toward resolving the dispute over gaining access to the report. Nadler has also had access to the alternative report, but hasn’t read it.
The contempt vote would be the opening salvo in what could be a lengthy, acrimonious court battle between House Democrats and the Trump administration over Mueller’s findings.
The movement to hold Barr in contempt reflects the deepening rift between Democrats and Barr, whom they accuse of spinning the results of Mueller’s investigation to Trump’s benefit. Barr, in a memo summarizing Mueller’s investigation , said there was insufficient evidence that Trump obstructed justice, backing up Mueller’s findings.
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Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said that the department has “taken extraordinary steps to accommodate the House Judiciary Committee’s requests for information” regarding Mueller’s report but that Nadler had not reciprocated. She noted that Democrats have refused to read a version of Mueller’s report with fewer redactions that has already been provided to Congress.
If the committee approves the contempt resolution against Barr, it would head to the full House for final approval. But that step is unlikely to lead to criminal charges.
A House vote would send a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, a Justice Department official who is likely to defend the attorney general.
Beyond Mueller’s report, House Democrats have, so far mostly unsuccessfully, subpoenaed administration witnesses and made efforts to gain access to Trump’s personal and business financial records. Trump has said he will block those efforts, declaring he will “fight all the subpoenas.”
Republicans have lambasted the Democratic tactics as overreach and defended Barr. The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said “Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general” when their anger actually lies with the president.
There is precedent for sitting attorney generals to be held in contempt of Congress. In 2012, the House held then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over a botched gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious. Republicans cited the Justice Department’s failure to turn over, without any preconditions, documents related to the risky operation. The Justice Department took no action to prosecute the attorney general.
Mueller’s report states that his two-year investigation could establish zero evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump team and Russia.
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The Associated Press contributed to this article