Rep. Stephen Lynch spoke with WGBH's Morning Edition Host Joe Mathieu following the release Thursday of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report. Lynch serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating President Trump beyond the scope of the Mueller probe. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: In a statement you posted, you said Attorney General William Barr acted as the president's personal defense attorney, and now it's up to Congress to do its job. How do you plan to do that, Congressman?
Rep. Stephen Lynch: Well, we will certainly have hearings [and] investigations. Remember, Joe, there are different standards here that Bob Mueller applied and that Attorney General Barr applied. The attorney general believes — and this is out of his memo — that it requires an underlying crime in order to find the president guilty of obstruction of justice. In his memo, he described instances that would allow us to find obstruction of justice, if the president destroyed physical evidence or — he actually put this in his memo — if he killed a witness or tampered with witnesses. Bob Mueller's analysis, however, says that the president can be guilty of obstruction of justice if he merely interferes with the truth-finding function of that proceeding, which is the investigation, to protect his own reputation. In other words, if he induces people to lie, if he lies himself [or] if he puts pressure on witnesses to dissuade them from testifying or cooperating, that can reach a level of obstruction of justice. And I actually think that reading the statute, Bob Mueller is correct. And so that's the trail that we will pursue in oversight.
Mathieu: Will you bring Robert Mueller before your committee to testify?
Lynch: Absolutely, because I think we want to clarify this point. The different theories of the case that Bob Mueller applies and Bill Barr applies, are, I think, material to whether or not the president is guilty of obstruction of justice.
Mathieu: If you found the president did obstruct justice, what then, Congressman? Do you move to impeach or do you wait until Donald Trump is no longer in office?
Lynch: It's going to take a while, so we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. But we've got a job to do here. The one thing I would suggest to people is read the report. It is 400 pages, but it's good reading. It is highly readable [and] well-documented. Bob Mueller issued 2,800 subpoenas. He issued 500 search warrants to get all this information firsthand. He interviewed over 500 witnesses and put them all under oath. So factually, it is fairly tight. And so I would just suggest people take a moment, [because] it's an important document in our history. It exposes the conduct of the president. It certainly puts this whole theory that Donald Trump is playing chess while other people are playing checkers [to rest]. It really exposes the president as a sort of evil Mr. Magoo who is saved only by the people who are around him [and] refuse to do his bidding. His counsel, Donald McGahn, refused to fire Bob Mueller at the president's request. There are numerous instances where the president asked people to lie and interfere with the investigation, and those people refused. That's the only thing that prevented the president, I think, from being indicted in the first instance by his own conduct. So, I think it's worthwhile to read [it]. It's heavily footnoted, but it reads quite well and it tells the narrative of Donald Trump.
Mathieu: Congressman, Donald Trump aside, for a moment here, there's one matter that I know you are particularly passionate about. This report says definitively that the Russian government directly sponsored the hacking of our election. And from everything we can tell, little if anything has been done to fix that for the 2020 election. What do we do here?
Lynch: Well, through the appropriation process we have allocated significant funds — $300 million [or] something like that — to harden or make our elections more resilient. However, there is social media and there [are] still those interventions by some of these trolls that are feeding highly volatile information to the electorate and with the intent of influencing the outcome. So we'll have to be very diligent. Remember, the Russians were paying for ads in rubles. That would that would be a giveaway, I would think.
Mathieu: Can you tell our listeners [and] your constituents that they can trust what happens in our elections in 2020?
Lynch: We have to be vigilant. We have to be careful. They have to be careful about the sources that they're reading from. And there's a job to be done here to protect our democracy. And it is threatened. So I wouldn't want people to relax. I think we need to be vigilant.
Mathieu: Should there be retribution when it comes to the Russian government? Should there be sanctions or other actions knowing now this really happened, Congressman Lynch?
Lynch: Well, we will continue to monitor the situation, and if we feel that the Russians are interfering with our election, then yeah, there should be consequences.
Mathieu: [You serve] on the Oversight and Reform Committee tasked with checking the executive branch. Can you tell us what you have planned, Congressman? Will you begin calling witnesses soon?
Lynch: Well, certainly the Judiciary Committee — Mr. Nadler has issued a letter of invitation to Bob Mueller, and Speaker Pelosi has also publicly asked Mr. Mueller to come before Congress. So I would imagine that at some point fairly soon, he'll end up before our committee on oversight to answer some questions as well.