Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley warned members of the House Judiciary Committee that they are “heading into a world of hurt” in their battle with Attorney General William Barr.
The George Washington University law professor confronted lawmakers as he appeared before the Committee Wednesday to be questioned on President Donald Trump’s assertion of executive privilege and congressional oversight.
(Video: Fox News)
“I believe that the contempt action by this committee was unfounded,” Turley said in response to a question about his recent op-ed addressing House Democrats and their “weakest possible contempt claim” against Barr. He warned them that moving ahead with their attacks against the attorney general could cause lasting damage to themselves.
Lib law prof methodically demolishes Congress’ contempt case: ‘Could do great harm, but not to Barr’ https://t.co/os59Ms2og5
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) May 10, 2019
Rep. Steve Chabot asked Turley about his views in light of the current hearing which he slammed for “wasting this committee’s valuable time.”
Turley doubled down on his criticism of the contempt charge against Barr, who is a personal friend, and said he believed “that if it goes to a federal court, this is another area where I think this committee could lose.”
“You are heading into a world of hurt if you go to the D.C. Circuit,” Turley said, warning that it is “not a hospitable place.”
“I’d encourage you not to,” he added.
House Democrats under Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler voted recently to hold the attorney general in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena to appear and to hand over a small, unredacted portion of Robert Mueller’s report.
Democrats have refused to view the documents Barr has made available, choosing instead to focus on the “two percent” that has been redacted and would be illegal for Barr to release according to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Turley had argued in his op-ed.
“The sealed version of the report given to Congress only had 2 percent redacted. Democrats are therefore seeking a contempt sanction on a report that is 98 percent disclosed and only lacks grand jury material,” he wrote.
“Faced with a report that rejected the collusion theories of their running narrative, Democrats want to focus on those 2 percent of redactions rather than over 400 pages of findings,” he explained. “So Congress now will ask a court to find civil contempt for Barr refusing to release grand jury information.”
During Wednesday’s testimony, Turley pointed to the case of McKeever v. Barr in which the same issue was ruled on by the D.C. Circuit court. The disclosure of grand jury information cannot be ordered by courts which do not have authority to do so besides a few exceptions outlined in Rule 6(e), he noted.
“There’s no question that he cannot release this Rule 6(e) information,” Turley said, arguing that Barr’s position is “unassailable.”
Nadler claimed Barr’s refusal to hand over the unredacted report and other underlying documents amounted to a “constitutional crisis.”
“We’ve talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis. We are now in it,” Nadler said after the contempt vote against Barr.
He warned lawmakers to tread carefully even if they decided to pursue witness testimony n an effort to get at some of the documents they demanded from the Mueller report, reminding them about President Trump invoking executive privilege on some of the materials.
“I strongly encourage you not to make that argument in federal court,” he said about challenging Trump on the executive privilege.