By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives filed legislation on Tuesday that would require Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report to be made public and give Congress access to the investigation’s underlying evidence.
The legislation represents the latest effort by House Democrats to head off any effort by the Trump administration to keep under wraps the findings of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any involvement by President Donald Trump’s election campaign.
“This legislation safeguards … taxpayer-funded law enforcement work and assures the right of Americans to see justice served,” the Democrat, Representative Lloyd Doggett, said in a statement.
The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Representative David Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is expected to garner broad support in the Democratic-controlled House.
It could also reignite debate in the Republican-led Senate, where Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced an identical bill earlier last month.
Lawmakers believe the Mueller report could be coming soon and are concerned about Justice Department regulations that require Mueller to submit a confidential report and leave the decision about what to disclose to Attorney General William Barr.
Democrats say Barr could release little of the report and prevent Congress from seeing evidence that could aid Trump oversight investigations by several House committees.
The Democratic chairs of six leading House committees told Barr in a letter last week that they expect his department to release as much of the Mueller report as possible to the public and provide material from the investigation to their panels upon request.
“Sadly, Attorney General Bill Barr made it clear during his confirmation hearing that he plans to abide only by Department of Justice policies,” Cicilline said. “He should not be the person who decides what Congress and the public get to see.”
The new legislation would require Mueller to provide his report to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, along with evidence, factual findings and an annex of classified material. It also calls on the Justice Department to release unclassified portions of the document to the public.
It was not clear how the legislation might fare in the Senate.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell avoided commenting on the Senate bill last month but told reporters that the Mueller report “ought to be as fully open and transparent … as possible.”
(Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis)