On Tuesday the Department of Justice sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler warning him of the consequences that await if he and his fellow Judiciary Committee Democrats vote Wednesday to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress.
Writing on the department’s behalf, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd warned that if Nadler didn’t cancel the scheduled contempt vote, the DOJ would advise President Donald Trump to “invoke executive privilege” over special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report.
“In the face of the Committee’s threatened contempt vote, the Attorney General will be compelled to request that the President invoke executive privilege with respect to the materials subject to the subpoena,” the assistant AG wrote.
Doing so would effectively block the Democrats from ever seeing the full report. Led by Nadler, earlier this month Democrats issued a subpoena demanding that Barr release the full report to them by May 1. The AG was likewise ordered to testify to the committee on the 1st.
But because of draconian demands by the committee chair — who’d ordered that Barr submit to an additional hour of public questioning by each party’s counsel — the AG bucked both requests.
“I hereby request that the Committee hold the subpoena in abeyance and delay any vote on whether to recommend a citation of contempt for non-compliance with the subpoena, pending the President’s termination of this question,” the assistant AG’s letter continues.
NEW: Barr threatens to ask the WH to invoke executive privilege over the Democrats’ demands for the Mueller report if the committee votes to hold him in contempt tomorrow. Vote is still on. Letter here: pic.twitter.com/dPn7DVsceP
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 8, 2019
The letter above was sent after negotiations between the DOJ and House Democrats reportedly broke down Tuesday, a day after the committee’s original subpoena hit its deadline.
In his letter to Nadler, Boyd pinpointed the numerous ways in which Barr “has repeatedly sought to accommodate the interests of the House Committee on the Judiciary.”
“On April 18, 2019, the Attorney General voluntarily disclosed to Congress the Special Counsel’s report, which was intended to be ‘confidential’ under the applicable regulations, with as few redactions as possible, consistent with the law and long established confidentiality interests of the Executive Branch,” he wrote.
“He also made available to you and other congressional leaders a minimally redacted version of the report that excluded only grand jury information, which could not lawfully be shared with Congress.”
Yet as of last week, only two lawmakers had taken advantage of this opportunity to review the report — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Republican Rep. Doug Collins.
The 12 members allowed to see the report:
Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler
McCarthy, Nunes, Collins
McConnell, Burr, Graham
Schumer, Warner, Feinstein
As of last week, only Graham and Collins has seen it, and McConnell has plans to. https://t.co/9vME5QAT7a
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 7, 2019
“In response, you refused even to review the minimally redacted report, and you immediately served a subpoena, dated April 18, 2019, demanding production of the fully unredacted report and the Special Counsel’s entire investigative files, which consist of millions of pages of classified and unclassified documents, bearing upon more than two dozen criminal cases and investigations, many of which are ongoing,” Boyd’s letter continues.
In negotiations Tuesday with the Judiciary Committee, DOJ officials reportedly graciously “offered to increase the number of aides who could view the report from one to two per member, to allow members to take their notes with them instead of leaving them at the Justice Department, and to discuss the redactions with other members who were allowed to view the report,” according to CBS News.
Fox News host Sean Hannity has pointed out that the AG didn’t have to offer any of this.
“Under threat of contempt of Congress, the attorney general, Barr, he’s refusing to release the full unredacted version of the Mueller report to congressional Democrats because he’s actually following the law, and because the law was passed by Democrats,” he noted Tuesday on FNC’s “Hannity.”
“Barr, by the way, he was not required to release one single letter. No word, no phrase, nothing of the Mueller report, and the only redactions to the full report include oh, grand jury information, language pertaining to ongoing cases, investigatory sources and methods. Can’t let that out anyway.”
It appears none of these facts have impressed Nadler.
“Tonight, in the middle of good faith negotiations with the Attorney General, the Department abruptly announced that it would instead ask President Trump to invoke executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena,” he said in a statement after receiving Boyd’s letter
“This is, of course, not how executive privilege works. The White House waived these privileges long ago, and the Department seemed open to sharing these materials with us earlier today. The Department’s legal arguments are without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis.”
He added that he plans to “confront the behavior of this lawless Administration” and examine the actions of those administration officials are who are “enabling this cover up.”
“Worse, this kind of obstruction is dangerous. The Department’s decision reflects President Trump’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties,” he specifically wrote.
“In the coming days, I expect that Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless Administration. The Committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover up. In the meantime, the Committee will proceed with consideration of the contempt citation as planned. I hope that the Department will think better of this last minute outburst and return to negotiations.”
BREAKING: Wednesday at 10 a.m. @HouseJudiciary to markup contempt report for AG Barr after DOJ rejects Committee’s counteroffer to view hidden sections of Special Counsel Mueller’s report. https://t.co/BOVLeUoXpi pic.twitter.com/39PyYRLruC
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) May 8, 2019
Apparently, to follow the law to the letter is to participate in a “cover up,” according to Nadler …
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