- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2019

Attorney General William P. Barr blew through a second deadline Monday to turn over more of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, as Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee scheduled a Wednesday morning vote to hold him in contempt of Congress.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said the two sides will negotiate Tuesday to see if they can reach a deal to head off the clash, but until they find agreement, he’s moving ahead with the vote.

“At the moment, our plans to consider holding Attorney General Barr accountable for his failure to comply with our subpoena still stand. My hope is that we make concrete progress at tomorrow’s meeting towards resolving this dispute,” he said in a statement Monday night.

That came after a day of chess moves by both sides, as they fight over access to Mr. Mueller’s work.

Mr. Nadler says Congress has a right to see it, including materials Mr. Barr redacted from the report he released to the public last month. He said the Mueller report could lead to impeachment, and so lawmakers need to see as much as they can.

Mr. Barr, through an assistant attorney general, says he’s already shared more than required by law and is willing to talk about other concessions, but says if he were to comply with all of Mr. Nadler’s demands it would mean breaking the law.

He suggested a meeting to talk things over — initially suggesting Wednesday, after Mr. Nadler’s scheduled contempt vote. But on Monday night Mr. Nadler said they’d agreed to speed that meeting up to try to reach a deal before contempt.

Mr. Barr has now missed Mr. Nadler’s original deadline for turning over the full unredacted Mueller report and supporting evidence, as well as a watered-down demand for a less-redacted version to be available to all members of Congress, as well as a more limited tranche of supporting evidence.

That second deadline was Monday morning, and when it passed with no compliance Mr. Nadler scheduled the contempt vote.

Hours later the Justice Department released its reply — a letter back to Mr. Nadler suggesting the meeting to work out a compromise, but also chiding congressional Democrats for their demands and their handling of the report so far.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, the Justice Department’s legislative liaison, particularly criticized Mr. Nadler and a select group of Democrats who have refused the department’s offer to view the less-redacted version of the report.

“Your refusal to view the less-redacted report hinders our ability to engage in a meaningful discussion about what specific information Congress needs in furtherance of legitimate legislative activities,” Mr. Boyd wrote.

Democrats have refused to view the report, saying they won’t let the administration dictate the terms of Congress’s work.

If the Judiciary Committee signs off on the contempt resolution it would go to a vote before the full House, which is controlled by Democrats and which is agitating for battles with the president.

Mr. Nadler released a 27-page report Monday justifying moving ahead with contempt, detailing his back-and-forth with the Justice Department as well as what House Democrats believe they are entitled to see.

In one part of the report, Democrats say they are discussing whether the conduct Mr. Mueller reported could lead to “articles of impeachment with respect to the president or any other administration official.”

The report also contemplates other measures, including censure or issuing criminal, civil or administrative referrals.

Mr. Barr says only about 10 percent of the 448-page report is blacked out.

The most common redaction was because the information’s release disclosure could harm an ongoing investigation. Other redactions included confidential grand jury information, material that compromise classified intelligence sources and details that could damage “peripheral third parties.”

The less-redacted version Mr. Barr has made available to a dozen members of Congress, including Mr. Nadler, contains all but the grand jury information.

Mr. Barr says that is protected by law, and it would take a court order to release it.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee, said Mr. Nadler knows that but is instead looking for a clash, not a solution.

“They know the Justice Department is working to negotiate even as they pursue contempt charges making their move today illogical and disingenuous,” Mr. Collins said.

Mr. Nadler’s contempt resolution, should it be approved by the whole House, would instruct House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ask the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., to prosecute Mr. Barr.

It also gives Mrs. Pelosi permission to “otherwise take all appropriate action to enforce the subpoena.”

The criminal referral to the U.S. attorney would likely be shunted aside by the Justice Department. That’s what happened when the GOP-led House held President Obama’s attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., in contempt in 2012 for not complying with an investigation.

Another option is a civil contempt resolution which would require the House to go to federal court and force Mr. Barr to comply with the subpoena.

The least likely option is inherent contempt in which the House could fine or order the imprisonment of Mr. Barr

A civil contempt case in the federal courts would likely drag on for years. Such a case brought against Mr. Holder was still proceeding well after he left office. Eventually, a judge rejected the contempt citation but did order the Justice Department to produce some documents.

Yet it’s not clear whether Congress is entitled to see the grand jury information Mr. Nadler has demanded.

Last month, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held federal judges don’t have the “inherent authority” to order the release of grand jury information.

Mr. Boyd, in his letter Monday, said Mr. Nadler has never argued how he would overcome that decision.

Mr. Nadler, in his watered-down demand letter last week, did say he wanted to work with Mr. Barr on a joint petition to the courts to unseal the grand jury information.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide