House Judiciary Committee Schedules Vote to Hold AG Barr in Contempt

May 6, 2019 Updated: May 6, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote for Wednesday, May 8, to decide whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for not turning over a fully unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections.

The committee’s announcement comes during a rift between House Democrats and the attorney general regarding the handling of the Mueller report and Barr’s decision not to appear for a scheduled hearing before the committee, prompting questions about how much information the Justice Department is required to provide to Congress.

In response to Barr’s refusal to comply with Democrats’ demands, Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) imposed a deadline last week of 9 a.m. May 6 for Barr to provide the committee with a version of the report without redactions.

“Even in redacted form, the Special Counsel’s report offers disturbing evidence and analysis that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice at the highest levels,” Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on May 6. “Congress must see the full report and underlying evidence to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities.”

“The Attorney General’s failure to comply with our subpoena, after extensive accommodation efforts, leaves us no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings in order to enforce the subpoena and access the full, unredacted report,” Nadler added.

He said that if the Justice Department agrees to comply with Nadler’s request by providing the full report, he would postpone the vote.

Jerry Nadler attends a news conference
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) attends a news conference on April 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

The vote is expected to occur at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. During a congressional contempt proceeding, the contempt resolution and report will be debated and voted on by committee members. If the vote passes, the resolution and report would move to the floor for a full vote in the House to authorize legal proceedings.

In response to Nadler’s announcement, Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) called the Democrats’ move “illogical and disingenuous.”

“Chairman Nadler knows full subpoena compliance requires Attorney General Barr to break the law. Yet, instead of introducing legislation allowing the attorney general to provide Congress grand jury material, Democrats move to hold him in contempt,” Collins said in a statement.

“They know the Justice Department is working to negotiate even as they pursue contempt charges, making their move today illogical and disingenuous. Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general when their anger actually lies with the president and the special counsel, who found neither conspiracy nor obstruction.”

Moreover, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent Nadler a five-page letter on May 1 explaining the reasons for not releasing the full unredacted report, according to USA Today.

Boyd wrote another letter to Nadler on May 6 offering to have a meeting to “negotiate an accommodation that meets the legitimate interests of each of our coequal branches of government.” The letter was made public by Collins.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told the news website that Barr had already taken extraordinary steps to accommodate the House, but Nadler has refused to reciprocate.

“The department remains willing to accommodate Congress’s legitimate needs, but must do so consistent with the law,” Kupec said, reported the news website.

Democrats’ Demands

Democrats have criticized Barr for weeks since the attorney general’s release of an initial four-page memo that provided the bottom line conclusions of the special counsel’s findings. Mueller’s report was eventually released on April 18, concluding that neither the Trump campaign, nor anyone associated with it, conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. Moreover, on the issue of obstruction of justice, Barr said the special counsel did not provide a prosecutorial judgment, nor did it provide enough evidence to substantiate that the president obstructed justice.

House Democrats have refused to accept the findings of the Mueller report and have launched hearings and investigations into the obstruction of justice claims that many of them have openly admitted they hoped would lead to the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

They have also criticized Barr for his handling of the release of the report, accusing him of siding with the president, while repeatedly calling for the full unredacted report despite knowing that compliance would result in Barr violating the law.

Attorney General William Barr (L) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrive to speak about the release of the redacted version of the Mueller report at the Department of Justice in Washington
Attorney General William Barr (L) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrive to speak about the release of the redacted version of the Mueller report at the Department of Justice in Washington on April 18, 2019. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Barr previously said the redactions are required to protect grand jury secrecy or to comply with judicial orders aimed at protecting the release of sensitive discovery information. They are also necessary to prevent the disclosure of information related to ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings including the Internet Research Agency and Roger Stone cases.

In order to accommodate with Congress members’ requests, Barr had offered a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report to select members of Congress, which Nadler and other Senate and House Democrats have rejected because it “would not permit them to discuss it with other Members of Congress who all have top security clearances.”

House Democrats also criticized Barr for failing to appear at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Mueller’s report on May 2. Barr refused to attend after disagreements in the format of the hearing, where Democrats wanted to have committee staff lawyers directly participate in the questioning.

Barr said questioning witnesses before congressional committees is the responsibility of elected senators and representatives.

The House committee has tentatively scheduled a hearing for May 15 to allow Mueller to testify before the panel, reported Fox News.

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