There are a lot of growls and roars coming from congressional lions of the Democrat party, such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler, over Attorney General Bill Barr’s refusal to comply with their demands that he turn over documents and appear before the hostile House Judiciary Committee. The thing about that, according to Brit Hume of Fox News, is that none other than the Obama AG Eric Holder proved congressional contempt citations are toothless.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Nadler, is set to vote on whether to hold AG Barr in contempt of Congress, specifically for refusing to comply with a subpoena for the full, unredacted Mueller report.
“Politically they are free to do it but what we found out from the attorney general under President Obama was that these contempt citations issued by Congress are pretty toothless,” Hume said last night on Fox’s “Special Report” telecast. “He was held in contempt for refusal to turn over materials and that was the end of it. It wasn’t as though the sergeant of arms marched down to the Justice Department with a group of troops to try to haul him up to Congress or something. So it’s not something any attorney general would desire to have happen but it would not do anything.”
As for potential testimony by Robert Mueller, “The president can’t declare executive privilege for the testimony of someone who is not really in an advisory capacity for him … it seems to me if Mueller wants to testify and the committee wants him to, he will testify.”
The ongoing battle being waged appears to be lining up as a constitutional showdown between the executive and legislative branches of government. How much information the Department of Justice must be provided to Congress is the fight.
In 2012, a Republican majority in the House held Obama-era Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress over his failure to provide documents and information related to the gun program known as “Fast and Furious.”
The Obama DOJ told House Speaker John Boehner that Holder’s actions did “not constitute a crime, and therefore the Department will not bring the Congressional contempt citation before a grand jury.”
Fox News reported, “With the civil contempt citation, a federal court agreed to hear the House’s claim. It ruled that not considering the petition could ‘do more damage to the balance envisioned by the framers than a judicial ruling on the narrow privilege question posed by the complaint.’
“In the Holder-Fast and Furious matter, the courts held that the DOJ had to produce certain documents, but many House Republicans said they weren’t happy with the end product.”
Another example of Congress’ relative impotence in such matters also came during the Obama era when IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner was held in contempt of Congress for allegedly targeting conservative groups over their tax status.
According to Fox …
Lerner appeared before the House Oversight Committee in May 2013. She delivered an opening statement but invoked her Fifth Amendment right when it came to answering questions. The panel decided that Lerner had waived her Fifth Amendment right. The House voted to hold Lerner in contempt in 2014.
In 2015, District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ron Machen told the House he would not pursue a criminal prosecution of Lerner. Machen declared that Lerner did not waive her Fifth Amendment shield when appearing before the committee.
Video by Fox News
“It’s not toothless if you have any shame. Would you like to be held in contempt of Congress?” Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin said on Friday about a contempt citation. “I would consider it, in a democracy, if you have civic self-respect and respect for other people, you would consider it a major shame and stigma for the rest of your life, as I suppose President Clinton carries it as a shame and stigma that he was impeached by the House of Representatives despite the fact that it was a totally tawdry partisan affair.”