RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
House Democrats have more leverage in their standoff with the Trump administration over a committee's investigation into possible obstruction. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, won a victory yesterday when his committee got access to some of the documents that he had requested, documents he describes as, quote, "Robert Mueller's most important files" and, quote, "key evidence that the special counsel used to assess whether the president and others obstructed justice or were engaged in other misconduct." They also passed a resolution allowing the House to go to court to enforce subpoenas for former White House officials like Don McGahn, former White House counsel who has refused to testify. Let's go now to the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Doug Collins, Republican of Georgia.
Thanks so much for being with us this morning.
DOUG COLLINS: Good morning - glad to be here.
MARTIN: We understand the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have seen the documents pertaining to the Russia investigation that Jerrold Nadler requested. Have you had a chance to look at them?
COLLINS: Our office has looked at those. We've been in hearings when those were actually released. There's nothing new here. I think it's really interesting the way the chairman described it. In fact, if the chairman had actually engaged in proper oversight from the committee, he could have seen these documents probably six, seven weeks earlier. The issue is these documents, 302s, that we've been offered - that they have - we've had a chance to look at, my staff has had a chance to look at and I've looked at what they have talked about - are stuff that the HPSCI committee and others have had for a while. So it's really interesting to describe this as a victory. I guess it's a victory that the chairman finally decided to actually engage the Department of Justice in an accommodation process.
MARTIN: Just for clarification, you say the HPSCI - you say the House Intelligence - Special...
COLLINS: Yes. This is not...
MARTIN: ...Intelligence Committee has some...
COLLINS: These are not - yeah. That's correct. These are not new documents in the sense that they've not been, you know, relayed before. So it's - like I said, it is interesting in the PR war that the chairman would actually say that this was a major victory. It's a major victory that he actually started, you know, going through an accommodation process with the Department of Justice. That's the victory.
MARTIN: So he - the chairman, Jerrold Nadler, insists that these documents, though, are part of the overall investigation where Democrats have been stymied by former Trump officials who refused to come testify. Do you believe it's a problem that folks like Don McGahn have refused to comply with the subpoenas?
COLLINS: The issue - it's interesting here that - having to change the story because this is not new stuff that's not been before us, so it's hard to understand why the chairman would say this is a continuing process. A lot of this stuff has been, you know, done before. The problem here is that the Democrats and their race detract...
MARTIN: Don McGahn and other Trump officials haven't come.
COLLINS: Well, remember. Don McGahn - exactly. And well, also the question materials from Don McGahn are not in Don McGahn's possession. They're not his materials to give that the White House is - under the White House's purview. And so it's interesting that you'd be asking Don McGahn for something he couldn't give anyway. The interesting story here is this - is that the judiciary committee and their rush to make headlines from the Mueller report that they didn't get is simply just run roughshod over the process of accommodation and run roughshod on the process of how you get documents, how you actually work with the administration.
It's actually interesting to me that the House Intelligence Committee, which had been very, you know, partisan and very - struggling in many areas over the last year and a half actually were the ones that actually engaged the Department of Justice first to actually get documents that they had been requesting. So it's really interesting to see - and under not - and really frustrating for me to see why my chairman has decided to, you know, go about a different way of getting now what he claims are new developments. And they're not really new developments. They're just new to him.
MARTIN: Well, let me ask you then. Do you think the House Judiciary Committee should not be investigating possible obstruction charges against the president?
COLLINS: That's not what I said. And the issue is not the matter of investigation. We're doing that. We had a really interesting hearing on Monday in which we brought back, you know, Watergate star John Dean...
MARTIN: Mmm hmm.
COLLINS: ...And some others to talk about various interpretations of this. I think the interesting thing is - here is we can have interpretations of what the Mueller Report said or didn't say. And I think it's pretty well solid now. If you want to see something, you're going to see it. And if you - but you take the end conclusions, which the Attorney General Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein took from Mueller. And even Mueller's statement with the attorney general's office after the fact said that there's no leeway here. They were never going to charge this no matter what the LOC has said - the legislative - the legal office at the Department of Justice. And there's no - you know, they came back very strongly that the Mueller report said there was no collusion. They did not find anything of conspiracy here. And there also was no chargeable obstruction...
MARTIN: They actually didn't...
COLLINS: We can...
MARTIN: They didn't say that, though. They said it was inconclusive.
COLLINS: Well, they actually - well, OK. At the end of the day, what was charged? I mean, I just sort of turned the question. We can say that that was inconclusive, but there was no charges. And the collusion was pretty firm that there was no conspiracy with the Trump campaign. So I mean, that's really almost non-negotiable because that was the strongest part no matter what you would think about Vol. 2.
MARTIN: I think the bottom line, congressman - I want to know if you believe that the House Judiciary Committee should be investigating this. Do you believe that the committee has an obligation for this kind of oversight?
COLLINS: It's the kind of oversight that the chairman wants to have. We can have oversight on the Mueller report. What's really interesting to me and what has really not been asked - and you've not asked the question - is why not actually have the guy who wrote the report come in instead of just talking about the report?
MARTIN: I think they want to do that.
COLLINS: My chairman seems to be jumping - excuse me?
MARTIN: I think they're trying to get Robert Mueller up there.
COLLINS: Well, it's been interesting. The chairman has subpoenaed everything that moves so far. He's subpoenaed everybody, and he's not even come close to talking about a subpoena for Robert Mueller.
MARTIN: Republican Doug Collins, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee. We appreciate your time this morning.
COLLINS: Thanks so much - appreciate it.
MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith listening in there. Tamara, the congressman there, the ranking member, seeming to agree that the committee does bear some responsibility in pursuing this kind of oversight but clearly taking issue with the tactics that the chairman himself, Jerrold Nadler, is using.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yeah. And one of the other tactics that occurred yesterday is that the full House - Democrats in the full House of Representatives voted to give Nadler's committee and other committee chairs more authority to go out and sue the administration or sue others in court in a civil procedure to try to compel them to cooperate with oversight. And that's sort of a novel move. It's - it rises out of Democratic frustration with the Trump administration. You know, the president said, we're fighting all the subpoenas, which led Democrats in the House to say, all right. Well, then this normal accommodation process maybe wouldn't work. What Congressman Collins is saying is that he would like those negotiations to happen. Democrats are saying, we'll try to negotiate, but it's not fast enough. They want to move more quickly.
MARTIN: Also, he has a point that a subpoena hasn't been issued for Robert Mueller. Might we see that now that there are some teeth in this process when it comes to getting these subpoenas and getting people to comply?
KEITH: Well - and as he said the Democrats on the committee have not been moving as rapidly in that direction to subpoena Mueller, but they certainly still do want to hear from him. Mueller, of course, came out and made it very clear that he wasn't all that interested in providing testimony, that the report is his testimony. Democrats would say, yeah, but most Americans haven't read the report.
MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.