By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted unanimously Thursday for a resolution calling for any final report in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to be made public, a symbolic action designed to pressure Attorney General William Barr into releasing as much information as possible when the probe is concluded.
The Democratic-backed resolution, which passed 420-0, comes as Mueller appears to be nearing an end to his investigation. Lawmakers in both parties have maintained there will have to be some sort of public resolution when the report is done — and privately hope that a report shows conclusions that are favorable to their own side.
Four Republicans voted present: Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie.
The resolution is unlikely to be passed in the Senate, where Democratic Leader Charles Schumer tried to bring it up hours after House passage. He was rebuffed when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham objected. But the House vote shows that lawmakers from both parties are eager to have a look at Mueller's findings after almost two years of speculation about what it might reveal.
Though Mueller's office has said nothing publicly about the timing of a report, several prosecutors detailed to Mueller's team have left in recent months, suggesting that the investigation is winding down. On Thursday, Mueller spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement that Andrew Weissmann, one of the most prominent prosecutors on the team, would be concluding his work "in the near future."
The nonbinding House resolution calls for the public release of any report Mueller provides to Barr, with an exception for classified material. The resolution also calls for the full report to be released to Congress.
"This resolution is critical because of the many questions and criticisms of the investigation raised by the president and his administration," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called the probe a "hoax" and a "witch hunt."
It's unclear exactly what documentation will be produced at the end of the probe into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, and how much of that the Justice Department will allow people to see. Mueller is required to submit a report to Barr, and then Barr can decide how much of that is released publicly.
Barr said at his confirmation hearing in January that he takes seriously the department regulations that say Mueller's report should be confidential. Those regulations require only that the report explain decisions to pursue or to decline prosecutions, which could be as simple as a bullet point list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages.
"I don't know what, at the end of the day, what will be releasable. I don't know what Bob Mueller is writing," Barr said at the hearing.
Democrats have said they are unsatisfied with Barr's answers and want a stronger commitment to releasing the full report, along with interview transcripts and other underlying evidence.
Republicans agree — to a point. In making an argument for transparency, Republican leaders have pointed to Barr's comments and the existing regulations, without explicitly pressing for the underlying evidence.
The top Republican on the House Judiciary panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, voted for the resolution but said it was unnecessary. He defended Barr, saying he "understands the questions, the turmoil this has caused."
Collins also had a warning for Democrats: "What happens when it comes back and none of this is true, the president did not do anything wrong? Then the meltdown will occur."
At least one Republican is siding with Democrats. Texas Rep. Will Hurd, a member of the House intelligence committee, said he believes the resolution should have been even broader.
"I want the American people to know as much as they can and see as much as they can," said Hurd, a former CIA officer. He added that "full transparency is the only way to prevent future innuendo."
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley called the resolution "ridiculous."
"They came in and so many of them said they wanted to work with the president and get things done for infrastructure and health care and instead they're moving on all these radical ideas," Gidley said of Democrats in an interview on Fox News.
Gidley said he hadn't spoken with Trump about whether the report should be made public.
If a full report isn't released, House Democrats have made clear they will do whatever they can to get hold of it. Nadler has said he would subpoena the final report and invite — or even subpoena — Mueller to talk about it.
The Senate has been less eager to push Barr on the release of the report, despite some in the GOP caucus who have said they want to ensure transparency. Graham, a close ally of Trump's, said he would only allow the Mueller resolution from the House to move forward if it were amended to call for a new special counsel to investigate misconduct at the Justice Department surrounding the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the abuse of the secret surveillance warrant process.
Schumer objected to those additions, and the bill did not get a vote.
Afterward, Graham was equivocal on whether the full report should be released.
“We’ll see,” he said.