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With Mueller Report In, House Judiciary Committee Member Expects 'Full Transparency'

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For reaction to the latest events, I'm joined now by Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. She is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has launched its own investigation into potential abuses by President Trump. Congresswoman Bass, thank you so much for joining us once again.

KAREN BASS: Thanks for having me on.

MARTIN: First of all, are you disappointed that you didn't get at least the top lines of the report today? And do you draw any conclusion from the fact that you didn't?

BASS: No, I'm not surprised. Well, you know, we were told that we might hear something before the weekend is over, so we still have another day. But I am just counting on full transparency and that, when we do receive information from the report, it will be all of the information.

MARTIN: So the House Judiciary Committee, as I said, is conducting its own investigation along with - it has to be said - numerous other House committees and the Senate Intelligence Committee. I'd like to ask - what is it that you are most focused on?

BASS: Well, I think the numerous, numerous examples of conflict of interest, the emoluments clause, you know, the fact that I believe that, every day that Trump has been president, he has made lots of money, whether it's from the hotel or from - in his weekend golf trips, where, you know, the press as well as Secret Service has to go along. But there are, unfortunately, so many different areas.

And judiciary is one committee, but you also have homeland security, financial services, intelligence, government reform and oversight. And, unfortunately, the oversight and investigation of this administration is really backlogged because, for the first two years, absolutely no oversight was conducted by the Republicans when they were in charge.

MARTIN: So I understand that the Democrats had a conference call today. Can you share with us what you all discussed?

BASS: So we heard from each chairperson of the various committees in terms of addressing their concerns. But the overall message, the overall concern by everyone on the call is that the administration - is that the Department of Justice absolutely has to be transparent, and not just with the report but with the underlying documentation, all of the information.

And one of the things that we talked about was a comparison of what happened under the Obama administration. Whether you were talking about Hillary Clinton's emails or Benghazi, the administration provided the Republicans who were doing oversight and investigation with tons and tons of documentation. And we expect the same from this Department of Justice.

I think one of the issues, given that we have a new attorney general, is - is he the attorney general for the Department of Justice, for the American people, for the United States? Or is he the attorney general for the president? The taxpayers of this country paid for every dime that was spent by Mueller for two years. And we absolutely have a right to know what was discovered, what was investigated.

MARTIN: The - Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said that she would reject any classified briefing of the Mueller report for congressional leaders. Do you share that view? Are you saying that you will not sit for a classified briefing unless it's an open forum and you get all the information?

BASS: Well, absolutely. But the main reason that statement was made is because the speaker was not going to accept a classified briefing with the group of eight, you know? Those are the top leaders in terms of intelligence and the leaders of the House and the Senate. And then, for the Department of Justice to say, well, we briefed the leaders, so there's nothing else we need to do. There's no more information we need to put forward. That's why that was sent.

MARTIN: So I do want to raise the topic of impeachment because it's been a hot topic among Democrats since your party took the House back. And the question has been - is it warranted by the facts, is it contingent upon the Mueller report, and is it smart politics? Now, the House Judiciary Committee, of which you are a member, would be the first to vote on articles of impeachment. Is that something that came up today as you all were talking about the way forward?

BASS: No, I actually don't recall it coming up. But, you know, what I think is so important for people to understand about impeachment - you know? Impeachment is what the House does. The Senate conducts a trial and convicts. And so I think there's a lot of confusion amongst the American people that, now that the Democrats are in charge, we can simply impeach him, and he will go away the next day.

That is not how the process happens. It's important for people to understand. I don't believe any of us thought it was dependent on the Mueller report. The Mueller report is absolutely critical. But, as I mentioned, we have oversight and investigation to be conducted by numerous committees, and we're behind. We're two years behind.

MARTIN: That is Congresswoman Karen Bass. She is a Democrat. She represents California's 37th Congressional District. She's also chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, as we just said. Congresswoman, thank you so much for talking to us once again.

BASS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BONOBO'S "IBRIK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.