House Judiciary Committee set to vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt

WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide special counsel Robert Mueller’s entire un-redacted report to lawmakers.

The clash between the executive and legislative branches sets in motion a constitutional showdown over how much information the Justice Department must provide to Congress. The Judiciary Committee is the first to move to contempt proceedings among a variety of investigations that House committees launched against the president and his administration.

The meeting begins at 10 a.m. EST.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Barr’s failure to comply with a subpoena for the full report left no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings. After the committee vote, the full House will consider the resolution.

“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,” Nadler said Monday in scheduling the vote. “Congress must see the full report and underlying evidence to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities.”

What is contempt?: What is that and can it actually be used?

How often does contempt happen?: Rarely

But the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said Nadler’s subpoena would have forced Barr to break the law by forcing the release of grand-jury information that is typically kept confidential unless released by a judge. Collins called the contempt charges “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,” Collins said Monday when the vote was scheduled.

Justice Department officials met Tuesday with committee staffers to negotiate a possible resolution to the conflict. But the talks were unsuccessful.

The Judiciary Committee fight has been brewing for weeks, since Mueller submitted his 448-page report to Barr on March 22.

Barr defended his handling of the report during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. He initially released a four-page summary of Mueller’s conclusions, finding no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election.

Mueller found 10 episodes of potential obstruction of justice, but reached no decision on whether to charge Trump. Barr consulted with other Justice Department lawyers before deciding no obstruction charges were warranted.

Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s report on April 18. He withheld four types of information from the report dealing with grand-jury evidence, information that could affect pending cases, intelligence secrets or information that could affect the privacy of people not charged.

House Democratic leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have insisted on seeing the entire report. The House panel subpoenaed the full report April 19 and Nadler set a deadline of Monday.

But Barr said he has provided as much transparency as possible about the report. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent the committee a five-page letter May 1 explaining the reasons for not releasing the entire report.

More about reaction in Congress to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report:

‘We’re out of it.’ Attorney General Barr defends release, conclusions of special counsel’s Russia report

‘Case closed’: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declares Robert Mueller’s Russia probe over

Mueller report: Criminal investigation moves to political realm as Barr summarizes for Congress

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