House Democrats plan to take the first step to holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress on Wednesday, in their push to get an unredacted version of the Mueller report and its underlying investigative material.
The House Judiciary Committee scheduled a markup of a 27-page contempt resolution that lays out the need for the full report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the negotiations so far with Barr to get it.
Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said that Barr’s failure to comply with the congressional subpoena for the full report “leaves us no choice” but to initiate contempt proceedings — but he left the door open to canceling them as well.
“If the Department presents us with a good faith offer for access to the full report and the underlying evidence, I reserve the right to postpone these proceedings,” Nadler said.
The move is the latest in public negotiations over one of the most high-profile documents in American history, including a letter May 3 from Nadler with a counter offer for viewing some of the report.
Mueller gave Barr a report of more than 400 pages detailing his findings and analysis of a two-year probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Donald Trump’s possible obstruction of that investigation.
Barr redacted four types of information from the report and has offered lawmakers several options for viewing some of that material. So far Democrats have rejected that and said Congress is entitled to the full report.
If the committee votes to accept the report and hold the attorney general in contempt, the resolution and report will move to the floor for a full vote in the House to authorize legal proceedings.
That would send a referral to federal prosecutors at the Justice Department under the Trump administration, where it is all but certain to go nowhere with Barr as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
In 2012, the then Republican-led House voted to hold then Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to the Operation Fast and Furious gun-running program.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Barr “has taken extraordinary steps” to accommodate the House request and says he will continue to engage in good faith efforts with Congress.
The Justice Department sent a letter to Nadler on Monday that proposes a Wednesday meeting with committee staff to negotiate “an accommodation that meets the legitimate interests of each of our coequal branches of government.”
“The Department remains willing to accommodate Congress’s legitimate needs, but must do so consistent with the law,” Kupec said.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the committee’s top Republican, said full subpoena compliance would require Barr to break the law.
“They know the Justice Department is working to negotiate even as they pursue contempt charges, making their move today illogical and disingenuous,” Collins said. “Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general when their anger actually lies with the president and the special counsel, who found neither conspiracy nor obstruction.”