U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he's not sure how much President Donald Trump's attorney general will let Congress see of Robert Mueller's report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Durbin said there's no clear legal precedent to compel William Barr to release the report.
“It could be an interesting battle because the limitations on the release of the report are strictly the regulations of the Department of Justice. They are not the law of the land,” Durbin said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a court contest if we demand the complete reports so the American people can see it, see all of it.
“It will be a case of first impression with the courts.”
NPR’s Carrie Johnson reported Saturday a Justice Department official said the principal conclusions in the report that Barr promised to send Congress is “not coming today.” The official said Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are “analyzing the report, working very closely together,” to put together the letter to Congress.
The official added Congress was notified the letter will not be coming on Saturday,
Durbin said the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which he serves, should be among the first to see the document.
The U.S. House adopted a resolution this week in a 420-0 vote stating the Mueller report should be public.
Barr said during his confirmation hearing in January he intends to “provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.”
Trump has also said the report should be made public. He has denied any wrongdoing and has called the probe a "witchhunt."
Initial reports indicate there will be no further indictments, though the question of a whether a sitting president could be indicted has been the topic of much political and legal discussion during the course of the 22-month probe.
Durbin visited Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center this weekend to help the Local 362 of the Laborers International Union celebrate its 100th birthday.
“Their question to me is, ‘Senator when are we going to start rebuilding America with the roads and the bridges and the things that need to be done?” Durbin said.
Durbin added there’s hope for the Town of Normal in its quest for federal dollars for a long-sought pedestrian underpass at Uptown Station, though he first suggested Illinois lawmakers make infrastructure spending a priority by adopting a capital bill.
“I hope that we on a bipartisan basis can come together for infrastructure,” Durbin said. “If there’s one thing both parties ought to agree on, its building the infrastructure of America.”
Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers International Union of North America, sounded an optimistic tone for laborers in Illinois who hope to see more work under Gov. J.B. Pritzker and a less contentious relationship than unions had with his predecessor, Bruce Rauner.
“I just think that (Pritzker) gets it, he understands us, he’s somebody that wants to make a difference in people’s lives in a positive sense and not a negative sense like the last governor,” O’Sullivan said.
“We have high hopes for the governor and we think we are going to do well, he’s going to do well and the state is going to do well.”
Durbin said President Trump’s declaration this week that the U.S. backs Israel’s claim of sovereignty in the contested Golan Heights – a reversal of a half century of U.S. foreign policy – is a concerning precedent.
Durbin said the U.S. should continue to seek a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians.
“You can’t have that happen if the Israelis continue through (President Benjamin) Netanyahu to grab territory that might be part of a Palestinian homeland,” Durbin said. “There’s got to be an option available to them.”
Durbin said Trump appears to be trying to come to the rescue of an embattled leader who is “hanging by his fingernails” as he faces corruption allegations and a re-election bid in April.
School Free Speech
Durbin said the Trump administration's efforts to require schools to make a free speech pledge to secure federal grants is a frightening prospect.
“To think that this administration and Donald Trump will stand in judgment on decisions made by individual universities as to whether they are going to have speakers on campus and if they don’t meet the president’s approval, he’s going to cancel the medical research projects at the university,” Durbin said. “That is an awful prospect.”
Durbin said diverse opinions should be encouraged on college campuses, but he added universities should have the right to ban controversial speakers who cross the line and incite violence.
Durbin sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration this week seeking answers to a report stating that Boeing added a previously optional safety feature to its 737 Max series planes only after two recent fatal crashes.
“That to me is hard to believe that that’s an option as to whether you’ll have a safety device,” Durbin said.
He asked FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell why the agency didn’t require the safety features in the first place and criticized the Trump administration for not appointing an FAA administrator for 14 months.
Boeing said Saturday it is making changes to the aircraft that are intended to make the planes easier for pilots to control.
White House in 2020
Durbin said he “doubts” he will endorse any of the more than dozen candidates who are seeking the Democratic nomination for president, but he hopes a contentious race doesn’t splinter the party.
“I want to make sure that this party is welcoming to everyone who shares our values, regardless of the candidate they are currently supporting,” Durbin said.
Some Bernie Sanders supporters claimed in the 2016 race that the Democratic Party establishment, led by the superdelegates (of which Durbin is one), helped cement Hillary Clinton’s nomination by squeezing out Sanders and his more progressive views, despite his late surge in the polls. Should former Vice President Joe Biden enter the race as is widely expected, that could touch off a similar in-party squabble.
“When it comes to superdelegate status, I can take it or leave it. I’m happy to serve as a superdelegate if it helps the party, but if they believe they want to open those slots for others, I’m perfectly open to that as well,” Durbin said.
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