House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues in the House voted on Wednesday morning to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to release a completely unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
Axios reports: “Pelosi specifically cited Barr’s refusal to comply with a House Judiciary subpoena for the unredacted version of the report as the basis for these contempt proceedings, saying it was separate from other issues — like his refusal to testify before the committee last week as well as allegations that he lied during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which Pelosi later called a crime.”
Daily Mail adds:
The vote, held in the House Judiciary Committee was along partisan lines – 22 Democrats versus 12 Republicans – and came after Barr declined to appear before the panel at a hearing last week.
The matter now goes before the full House chamber for a vote, where Democrats hold a 38-seat majority.
The House Speaker’s comments echoed that of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.
“The Attorney General’s failure to comply with our subpoena, after extensive accommodation efforts, leaves us no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings in order to enforce the subpoena and access the full, unredacted report,” Nadler said via ABC News.
“We have no choice,” Nadler added via the Associated Press.
According to the report, the committee met together on Wednesday to officially move on a contempt citation, ultimately voting to pass the citation.
Democrats pursuing the contempt order will be shy to admit the attorney general has been more than willing to accommodate Democratic members and allow them to read an unredacted version of Mueller’s 448-page final report.
But, Nadler does not want some members to read it, he wants all members to have access to the unredacted version—a step too far for Barr. The attorney general, as ABC News reports, has invited Nadler and others to come to the Justice Department “to discuss a mutually acceptable accommodation.”
While Nadler has asked for the full report to be made available to lawmakers, the Justice Department has only invited select congressional leaders to view the report in a secure facility at the Justice Department. Monday evening, Nadler said in a statement that the DOJ had agreed to meet with his staff on Tuesday.
The criminal contempt resolution would refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia, a Trump appointee who is unlikely to decide to pursue the matter. If the measure passes in a committee vote Wednesday morning, it would require a vote before the entire House of Representatives.
The move to refer the criminal contempt resolution to the U.S. Attorney is one of three ways Democrats can try to force Barr to comply with their subpoena and produce the full report, unredacted and with underlying evidence.
The House could also advance a civil contempt resolution, which would allow the House to go to federal court to force the Justice Department to comply with Nadler’s subpoena. Under inherent contempt, the third and least likely option, the House could try to enforce its own subpoena with a fine or imprisonment.
Following the committee’s vote, Nadler announced (via Daily Mail): “Today, we consider a report recommending that the House of Representatives hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a valid subpoena issued by this committee.”
“This is not a step we take lightly. It is the culmination of nearly three months of requests, discussions and negotiations with the Department of Justice for the complete, unredacted report by special counsel Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election along with the underlying evidence,’ Nadler said after the vote took place,” he added.
President Trump took swift action to defend Barr and to stop any unredacted versions of the final report from being released, Daily Mail also reports.
“Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said immediately following the vote on Capitol Hill.
“The Attorney General has been transparent and accommodating throughout this process, including by releasing the no-collusion, no-conspiracy, no-obstruction Mueller Report to the public and offering to testify before the Committee. These attempts to work with the Committee have been flatly rejected. They didn’t like the results of the report, and now they want a redo,” she added.