Justice Department Protests Dems’ ‘Rush’ to Hold Barr in Contempt

Attorney General William Barr, flanked by Edward O’Callaghan (left) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Department of Justice said Monday that it was “disappointed” with House Democrats’ decision to begin contempt proceedings against Attorney General William Barr, lamenting lawmakers’ “rush” to subpoena the DOJ for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report and the underlying evidence used to produce it.

Early Monday, the Committee announced that it intends hold a vote Wednesday on a contempt citation for Barr, after the attorney general ignored a congressional subpoena seeking the full, unredacted version of the Mueller report. If the committee approves the proposal it will go to the entire House for consideration later in the month.

“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,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) said in a statement.

“We were disappointed that the Committee took initial steps this morning toward moving forward with the contempt process,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a subsequent letter to Nadler (D., N.Y.). “The Department reiterates its concerns with the Committee’s rush to issue a subpoena immediately after the Attorney General took the extraordinary step of publicly disclosing, with as few redactions as possible, the confidential report of Special counsel Mueller III, and after he took the further step of making an even-less-redacted version available to a bipartisan group of congressional leaders.

Boyd also offered to arrange a Wednesday meeting with Nadler to discuss the “possible disclosure of certain materials” and negotiate an “acceptable accommodation” of the Committee’s demands.

Barr is legally prohibited from releasing certain material in the special counsel’s final report to Congress and the public. The version of the report released to Congress last month kept redacted four types of material: grand-jury information, information that would reveal intelligence sources and methods, information that affects the privacy of “peripheral players” not charged as a result of the investigation, and information that would compromise ongoing prosecutions.

The report concluded that “the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges” related to the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia but left Congress to decide whether to initiate impeachment proceedings related to Trump’s conduct. Democrats have demanded to see the unredacted version as well as the underlying evidence Mueller used to reach his conclusions.

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