Democrats to hold William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying subpoena
Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday is expected to approve a measure to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena to turn over the full Mueller report — the first move in a process to censure the attorney general and fight for the documents in court.
“Still scheduled,” Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Tuesday afternoon of the planned meeting.
Democrats, frustrated with Barr’s handling of Mueller’s report and his initial description of the special counsel’s findings in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, have increasingly trained their fire on the attorney general.
They have pushed for access to the full report and underlying evidence gathered by Mueller “to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities,” Nadler said in a statement after the Justice Department missed a committee deadline to turn over the materials earlier this week.
The Justice Department has pushed back on Democrats’ demands and instead offered to make an unredacted version of the Mueller report available to a small group of congressional leaders for review at a Justice Department facility.
Negotiations between the Justice Department and Nadler’s staff on Tuesday fizzled, with both sides preparing for a contentious committee meeting Wednesday morning after Democrats dismissed the Justice Department’s offer to allow more staffers to view the report, without providing access to the full committee.
The committee is sparring with the administration on several fronts.
The White House instructed former White House counsel Don McGahn to ignore a subpoena from the committee for documents related to the special counsel’s investigation, according to a letter sent Tuesday from White House counsel Pat Cipollone to McGahn’s attorney William Burck. McGahn, who cooperated with Mueller, is cited more than any other witness in the special counsel’s final report.
It’s unclear whether he’ll still comply with the committee’s subpoena for his testimony on Capitol Hill later this month.
The committee is expected to approve the measure to hold Barr in contempt, which would then need approval from the full House. The resolution would refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia, a Trump appointee in the Justice Department unlikely to pursue the matter. Democrats are also considering a separate action to seek enforcement of their subpoena in civil court, which could lead to a years-long legal fight.
The Justice Department warned Tuesday night that Barr would ask Trump to invoke executive privilege over the full Mueller report if Democrats moved forward with contempt proceedings.
“Unfortunately, the Committee has responded to our accommodation efforts by escalating its unreasonable demands and scheduling a committee vote to recommend that the Attorney General be held in contempt of Congress,” the Justice Department wrote in a letter to Nadler on Tuesday night.
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