House Judiciary Committee sets Wednesday contempt vote for Attorney General William Barr

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

The clash sets up a constitutional showdown between the executive and legislative branches over how much information the Justice Department must provide to Congress. The fight is one facet of a variety of investigations that House committees launched against the president and his administration.

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. But Nadler said the vote could be postponed if Barr engages in good-faith negotiations about the report and its underlying evidence.

“Even in redacted form, the Special Counsel’s report offers disturbing evidence and analysis that President (Donald) Trump engaged in obstruction of justice at the highest levels,” Nadler said. “Congress must see the full report and underlying evidence to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities.”

Justice Department officials on Monday, however, agreed to meet Tuesday with Nadler to discuss the request.

“I am pleased that the Department of Justice has agreed to meet with my staff tomorrow—and not Wednesday afternoon, as originally proposed by DOJ,” Nadler said. 

Nadler said that the committee still plans to consider holding Barr accountable, but hopes that he and the Justice Department can make “concrete progress at tomorrow’s meeting towards resolving this dispute.”

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.

“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.

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

Barr initially released a four-page summary of conclusions that Mueller reached, in 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 April 18. Barr 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.

Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said Monday that Barr had taken extraordinary steps to accommodate House requests for information, but that Nadler had refused to reciprocate. Boyd invited committee staffers to discuss a mutually acceptable way to resolve the dispute on Wednesday, she said. 

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

More on Congress clashing with the Trump administration:

‘Slow-motion constitutional car crash’: Trump, Congress battle over investigations with no end in sight

‘We’re fighting all the subpoenas.’ Congress and Trump prepare to battle over wide-ranging probes

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

Nancy Pelosi: AG Barr ‘lied to Congress,’ that’s a crime

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