Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, called Friday for the public release of all of special counsel Robert Mueller’s “backup and source documentation,” a call that goes even further than most Democrats’ demands for more transparency around Mueller’s report.
Though most Republicans in Congress have lambasted Democrats for continuing to demand access to Mueller’s underlying files, Nunes (R-Calif.) argued that accessing those documents — and making them public — would expose Mueller’s effort as a “fraud.” Democrats say they want the same materials because they’ll aid investigations into Mueller’s evidence that President Donald Trump repeatedly attempted to obstruct his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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Nunes’ argument followed the release by prosecutors of a voicemail left by one of Trump’s attorneys in 2017 with a lawyer for Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who became a crucial cooperator for Mueller. The voicemail from Dowd came on the eve of Flynn’s decision to abandon a joint defense agreement with Trump and begin working with Mueller. In his report’s volume on obstruction of justice, Mueller highlighted excerpts of the voicemail noting that Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, asked for a heads up on any information that “implicates the president” and mentioned Trump’s “feelings toward Flynn.”
On Friday, Mueller’s team released a full transcript of the voicemail on the order of a federal judge. In the fuller transcript, Dowd had indicated he wanted a heads up “not only for the president but for the country.”
“Um, just for the sake of…protecting all our interests, if we can, without you having to give up any…confidential information,” Dowd said, according to the transcript.
Nunes pointed to the omission of those lines from Mueller’s report as proof of malfeasance on Mueller’s part and said it justifies the public release of all of Mueller’s backup information.
“This is why we need all backup and source documentation for the #muellerdossier released publicly. It’s all a fraud…” Nunes tweeted.
Mueller highlighted Dowd’s voicemail as part of his evidence suggesting Trump or his allies may have attempted to influence Flynn’s willingness to cooperate with investigators. Mueller’s argument that Dowd had conveyed Trump’s continued warm feelings toward Flynn — combined with public and private efforts by Trump to encourage Flynn to stay strong — could have affected Flynn’s willingness to cooperate, or limited the extent of his willingness to help. But Mueller also noted that attorney-client privilege issues prevented him from learning whether Trump “was personally involved in or knew about” Dowd’s outreach.
Notably, Democrats have met fierce criticism from Republicans for making similar demands. They’ve accused Democrats of trying to relitigate Mueller’s findings and Trump has attacked them repeatedly as seeking a “do-over” of Mueller’s work. He asserted executive privilege earlier this month at the urging of Attorney General William Barr to shield Mueller’s underlying evidence from efforts by Congress to obtain them.
It’s not the first time Nunes has broken from the GOP message on the Mueller report. He signed two joint letters with Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) demanding access to all of Mueller’s files for the committee, even threatening to subpoena for them if Barr didn’t cooperate. Schiff issued that subpoena earlier this month.