Members of the House Judiciary Committee will be able to take notes on Mueller investigation evidence, and keep those notes after viewing the closely held documents, The Daily Beast has learned.
There may be a hiccup, however: A source familiar with the situation cautioned that the White House will likely have access to any evidence that could implicate its equities and executive privilege, and may try to step in and block members of Congress from seeing material it deems privileged.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler start the arm-wrestle with the Justice Department after Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report on Russian election meddling in April, demanding the full unredacted report and its underlying evidence. The fight grew tense, with members of his committee threatening to subpoena Attorney General Bill Barr.
Then, on Monday afternoon, Nadler announced he and the Justice Department had made a deal, and that his committee would not try to use contempt proceedings to force the DOJ to cough up Mueller documents. Nadler’s announcement said staff and members of the committee would get access to “trial evidence” Mueller gathered on obstruction of justice.
A source familiar with the deal told The Daily Beast that the materials in question will stay at DOJ headquarters, nine blocks from the Capitol building. Members will have to hoof it over there to review the docs.
A Democratic committee source then shared a detail on Nadler’s deal regarding the notes and access to them. Members of the committee—both Democrats and Republicans—will be able to take notes on Mueller’s evidence and will be able to keep those notes after they leave DOJ headquarters, per the source and a second person familiar with the deal.
Committee staff who see the documents will be able to take notes as well, a second source familiar with the deal confirmed. A DOJ official said the deal requires that members and staff store those notes in a secure committee facility and only show them to people authorized to see them.
That official also told The Daily Beast that the outlines of the deal Nadler announced today are very similar to those outlined in a May 7 proposal the DOJ made to the chairman. That proposal wasn’t accepted, and House Judiciary members voted on May 8 to take the first step toward holding Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress.
The May 7 proposal, per the DOJ source, would have let committee members and staff view a minimally redacted version of Mueller’s report, with the promise that there would be another negotiating session after they read it regarding its underlying evidence––in other words, ‘Read the report, then we’ll talk.’ Viewing the underlying evidence wasn’t off the table, but it wasn’t exactly on the table, either. That offer didn’t fly. The new agreement gives Nadler, all 41 committee members, and multiple staffers access to some of the report’s tightly held underlying evidence.