House Judiciary votes on holding Barr in contempt

After negotiations with the Department of Justice, House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are now pressing ahead with holding a vote on potentially finding Attorney General William Barr in contempt for not complying with the panel’s subpoenas to provide documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

CBS News’ Rebecca Kaplan reports that the president has asserted privilege over the entire Mueller report and underlying documents.

“Unfortunately, rather than allowing negotiations to continue, you scheduled an unnecessary contempt vote, which you refused to postpone to allow additional time for compromise,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

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In response, Committee Chairman Nadler said in his opening statement Wednesday that the administration was “misapplying the doctrine of executive privilege,” and called the decision a “clear escalation in the Trump administration’s blanket defiance” of the constitutional duties of Congress.

“The information we are requesting is entirely in our legal right to receive,” Nadler said. Democrats are adamant that Barr should turn over the entire unredacted Mueller report and any underlying materials, which the Justice Department has refused. The Department has offered to allow a few members of Congress to view a less redacted version of the report, under the condition that these members do not speak with their colleagues about the report.

“Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress to hold the president — any president — accountable,” Nadler added.

The assertion of executive privilege comes after the Justice Department warned it would ask the president to invoke executive privilege over the entire Mueller report if the committee does not cancel its planned vote, according to a letter from Boyd Tuesday evening. In a statement Tuesday evening, Nadler called the department’s legal arguments “without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Washington Post reporter Robert Costa Wednesday morning that she believes Barr should be held in contempt of Congress. She also declined to make a judgment on whether Barr should be impeached, saying that “nothing is never off the table.”

“For the White House to be degrading the office the president holds, degrading the Constitution of the United States and degrading the first branch of government, the legislative branch, that’s just not decent,” Pelosi said.

Nadler has also threatened to hold former White House lawyer Don McGahn in contempt if he didn’t respond to congressional subpoenas for similar documents. The White House has since ordered McGahn not to comply with the subpoena, according to a letter obtained by CBS News.

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