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House will vote to hold Barr in contempt over Mueller report

Judiciary panel issued contempt citation last month against attorney general for ignoring subpoena

Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 8:38 p.m. | The House will vote June 11 to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer announced Monday.

The planned floor action follows a party-line vote in the Judiciary Committee last month on a contempt citation against Barr. The panel’s action came after the attorney general ignored its subpoena for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s full, unredacted report and underlying investigatory materials.

Democratic leaders had previously discussed combining multiple contempt citations into a single package or bringing them to the floor individually but at the same time. They were hoping to avoid multiple days of floor action on contempt that would distract from their legislative agenda.

Although no contempt citations other than the one Judiciary approved for Barr have been reported out of committee, it appears leadership is moving forward with its plan to combine contempt actions.

Hoyer said in a statement announcing the June 11 vote that it will be on a single contempt resolution addressing the failure of both Barr and McGahn to comply with Judiciary subpoenas.

“The resolution will authorize the Judiciary Committee to pursue civil action to seek enforcement of its subpoenas in federal court,” the Maryland Democrat said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she supports the House acting on contempt citations for Barr and McGahn.

“That’s the recommendation from the committee of jurisdiction,” the California Democrat said.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler had threatened to hold McGahn in contempt but had yet to take committee action. The planned floor vote appears to supersede a committee markup.

McGahn served as a key witness for the special counsel in outlining evidence of potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. The Judiciary Committee had subpoenaed McGahn for documents related to the incidents he described to Mueller and for him to testify before the panel. McGahn ignored both aspects of the subpoena upon the advice of the current White House counsel.

The news of the floor vote came the same day the House Oversight and Reform Committee said it will vote to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt if they do not turn over by Thursday documents the panel requested on the administration’s 2018 decision to add a citizenship question to the census.

The committee has been investigating the rationale for adding the citizenship question. Letters that Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings sent Monday to Barr and Ross threatening contempt accused the administration of “one of the most unprecedented cover-ups since Watergate.” The Maryland Democrat argued that documents revealed last week by advocates show a Republican operative pushed the question to redraw congressional maps for partisan gain.

“The real reason the Trump Administration sought to add a citizenship question was not to help enforce the Voting Rights Act at all but rather to gerrymander congressional districts in overtly racist, partisan and unconstitutional ways,” the letters stated.

The Commerce Department responded Monday by accusing the Oversight Committee of taking the “extraordinary step to compel production of documents protected by longstanding and well-settled privileges.”

“To any objective observer, it is abundantly clear that the Committee’s intent is not to find facts, but to desperately and improperly influence the Supreme Court with mere insinuations and conspiracy theories,” the department said.

Barr may also face a third contempt action from the House Intelligence Committee for failure to comply with its subpoena for the full Mueller report and counterintelligence evidence compiled by the special counsel. The panel has held off on such action amid some cooperation from DOJ on its request.

Any future committee votes to hold Barr, Ross or other administration officials in contempt may not prompt separate floor action, however.

Hoyer said in his statement that the resolution “authorizes House committees that have issued subpoenas as part of their oversight and investigation responsibilities to seek civil enforcement of those subpoenas when they are ignored.”

Michael Macagnone contributed to this report.

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