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Nadler: Executive privilege can't be used to 'hide wrongdoing' in Mueller report

The House Judiciary chairman warned the White House that information underlying the Mueller report can't be withheld.
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WASHINGTON — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler Sunday warned President Donald Trump against attempting to assert executive privilege to block the release of portions of the Mueller report.

Appearing on "Meet the Press" two days after special counsel Robert Mueller turned in his final report on Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Justice Department, Nadler argued that the White House won't be able to hide behind the power of the presidency if there are damaging findings in the report.

"It's critical that everything in that report and the underlying evidence be public, be open to the American people," said Nadler, D-N.Y. "That transparency is key. America needs answers as to what's been going on.

"As we learned from the Nixon tapes case, executive privilege cannot be used to hide wrongdoing."

A battle over executive privilege, the right presidents often claim to shield certain information, could be the next flashpoint in the battle surrounding the Mueller probe.

All eyes are now on Attorney General William Barr, who is tasked with analyzing the report and deciding what portions of it can be shared with Congress and ultimately the public. He's expected to deliver those characterizations as soon as Sunday.

Democrats have made clear that they want the entire report, as well as the underlying documents that support it, to be made public.

And while he's been critical of the special counsel's probe and Mueller's entire team for months, Trump said last week he wants the report to be made public.

But executive privilege has been a major source of contention between the White House and Congress in past administrations. So it's possible that the Trump administration could try to block the release of some portion of the report.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., agreed with the broad call for transparency on Sunday.

He argued that while some intelligence information would obviously need to be redacted, his message to Trump is to "lean toward transparency" in order to to help the country move forward after the report's release. And he added that transparency would also help the public understand the legal rationale for starting the investigation in the first place.

"Let's put all of that out there as well so we can pass judgment about how the investigation was conducted, or at least a predicate for the investigation was conducted during the Obama years," Rubio said on "Meet the Press."

Much of Mueller's work has already played out somewhat in the public sphere, with the investigation triggering the indictments of 34 people, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort; former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn; former lawyer Michael Cohen; as well as a handful of Russians Mueller says interfered with the 2016 election.

Nadler pointed to the information contained in those indictments to argue Mueller had already found evidence of wrongdoing by Trump allies during his investigation.

"We know that he fired the FBI director for not giving him the personal loyalty that he demanded and for not dropping those investigations," he said.

"We know that many of the president's closest associates, his national security adviser, campaign manager, et cetera, have been convicted of various crimes. And we know that he's waged a relentless two-year campaign to attack law enforcement institutions."

Democrats are also warning that the report is just one piece of the oversight over Trump, whose administration, campaign and business dealings are still being investigated by Congressional committees.

Nader's Judiciary Committee is in the midst of a broad investigation into obstruction of justice, public corruption and abuse of power, for which he subpoenaed 81 individuals and entities related to Trump.

There are active investigations in the House Oversight Committee, as well as in the House and Senate Intelligence Committee and in state attorneys general offices.

Another question facing Democrats is whether they should call Mueller or Barr to testify about the report. Nadler said Sunday that he doesn't believe it would be necessary to call Mueller to testify as long as his report was straightforward.

"He gave us a report, he speaks through that report. If that report answers all our questions, there will be no need to call him," Nadler said.

"If that report is not public, if large parts of it are not made public, or if it leaves a lot of questions, then we have a necessity to call him."