The Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.
The development comes after committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) threatened to pursue contempt proceedings if the attorney general did not comply with Democrats’ demand to release the full, un-redacted special counsel Robert Mueller report along with its underlying evidence last week.
Per Nadler’s latest ultimatum, Barr and the Department of Justice had until Monday morning to comply with the demands.
“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,” reads a statement from Nadler on Monday. “Congress must see the full report and underlying evidence to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities.”
Barr and Republicans have previously objected to the release of the full report and the underlying evidence because they contain confidential grand jury information or other sensitive information. A Department of Justice statement from April explained that “every page” of the confidential report given to Barr on March 22, 2019 was marked “‘May Contain Material Protected Under Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)” — a law that protects confidential grand jury information — and therefore could not be publicly released.”
“Chairman Nadler knows full subpoena compliance requires Attorney General Barr to break the law,” reads a statement from top committee Republican Doug Collins (R-Ga.) criticizing the move. “Yet, instead of introducing legislation allowing the attorney general to provide Congress grand jury material, Democrats move to hold him in contempt. They know the Justice Department is working to negotiate even as they pursue contempt charges, making their move today illogical and disingenuous.”
The last attorney general of the United States to be held in contempt of Congress was Eric Holder when he refused to cooperate with the House’s investigation into the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal. While the Department of Justice inspector general later cleared Holder of wrongdoing, a federal judge eventually ordered that the documents be handed over to Congress.
During a contempt resolution markup, committee members will meet, debate, and eventually vote on whether or not they will advance a resolution to hold the AG in contempt of Congress. That resolution will then go to the House floor where it will be voted on by the entire chamber. If the resolution passes, Speaker Nancy Pelosi can then refer Barr for prosecution.
Contempt of Congress is a federal offense that carries a maximum sentence of a $100,000 fine and/or one year in prison.
The DOJ responded to news of the contempt vote by inviting Nadler, Collins and their staff members to come to the Department of Justice on Wednesday to work out a compromise over the requested materials.
In a two-page letter sent to Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said that the department was “disappointed” that the committee decided to move forward with the contempt process rather than negotiate.
“The Attorney General has taken extraordinary steps to accommodate the House Judiciary Committee’s requests for information regarding the Special Counsel’s investigation,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “The Department remains willing to accommodate Congress’s legitimate needs, but must do so consistent with the law.”