Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress earlier today. The move came after Barr refused to comply with subpoenas to hand over an unredacted version of the Mueller report on Russian election meddling.
In response, Barr advised President Trump to invoke executive privilege over the report in order to give Barr more time to reach a final decision on what parts of the report need to remain confidential.
“…This is to advise you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd in a letter to House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
“As I indicated in my letter to you last night, this protective assertion of executive privilege ensures the President’s ability to make a final decision whether to assert privilege following a full review of these materials.”
The White House and Congressional Democrats have been locked in a bitter and escalating legal battle over the report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on interference in the 2016 presidential election, along with possible cooperation with the Trump campaign. Mueller’s report was released last month but several sections of it remain redacted due to ongoing investigations and other national security reasons.
Democrats subpoenaed the full report, and all underlying evidence gathered in Mueller’s investigation, from the Department of Justice in mid-April. The Justice Department and House Democrats have been negotiating on the further release of the redacted information since.
It’s unclear what the consequences of today’s contempt vote will be as any penalties under a congressional contempt charge would have to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice, the department Barr currently heads.
The White House continues to regard Democrats’ demands as unwarranted. “Neither the White House nor the attorney general will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today in a statement.
Nadler however has vowed to continue the fight. “Our exhaustive negotiations with the Department of Justice have, unfortunately, left us back where we began — with unprecedented obstruction by an administration that has now announced its intention to block all attempts at congressional oversight of the executive branch. It is our constitutional duty to respond,” he said.
“No person — and certainly not the top law enforcement officer in the country — can be permitted to flout the will of Congress and to defy a valid subpoena,” he added.
Photo by The White House