The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee chaired by Democrat Jerry Nadler voted in favor today of holding Attorney General William Barr in Contempt of Congress for violating a subpoena to appear before the Committee and to provide Congress with the full unredacted Mueller Report by May 1st.
The vote comes after weeks of negotiating between the Judiciary Committee and the Department of Justice led by William Barr and the stonewalling of information from the DOJ.
The Republican minority on the committee spent the eight hours focusing on what Rep. Hank Johnson from Georgia called “Sweet Talk.” They called for more dialogue with the DOJ and decried that the vote held today was premature and politically motivated. Chairman Jerry Nadler reminded them several times of the timeline of events:
- March 14: House of Representatives votes 420-0 to release full unredacted Meuller Report.
- March 22: Special Counsel Mueller delivers his report to the DOJ.
- March 24: AG Barr delivers a four page summary.
- March 27: Mueller sends letter to AG Barr claiming his summary did not capture context, nature, and scope of the Special Counsel’s work and conclusion.
- April 9: AG Barr lies to the House Appropriations Committee about knowdlege of Mueller’s opinion of Barr’s four page summary.
- April 18: Barr delivers a Press Conference. Releases Redacted Mueller Report hours later.
- April 19: House Judiciary Committee issues Subpoena for full unredacted Mueller Report.
- May 1: Mueller Letter to AG Barr becomes public knowledge. Barr testifies before Senate.
- May 2: AG Barr ignores subpoena from House JC and does not attend scheduled hearing.
- May 3: House JC Chairman Jerry Nadler threatens contempt of Congress against AG Barr.
Donald Trump and AG Barr have been consistent since before Barr was confirmed for his position – they believe a President cannot obstruct justice and they are going to use every mechanism in their authority to stop the Mueller Report from being released in full. That stands in stark contrast to the handling of Bill Clinton’s Special Counsel Starr Report which was released in full two days after being received by the DOJ.
The Mueller Report specifically goes over the need for Congress to view the information and make a decision only Congress can make. In Starr’s case, the House was granted the opportunity to review all the information and make a decision based on the facts. In Trump/McConnell’s America it’s okay to call “Case Closed” even before you’ve read the case.
Republicans on the committee argued that the subpoena was too vague, that it asked for material the Attorney General legally could not provide. Notwithstanding the subpoena also called for the AG’s appearance before the Committee, the Attorney General was at liberty to withhold information he deemed legally inappropriate to share, and explain that before the committee. Attorney General Barr chose instead to ignore the subpoena and not attend the hearing.
The Democratic majority contend that the Attorney General’s strategy is to stall and obstruct Congress’ ability to conduct oversight and investigation, leaving the Chairman with no choice but to issue a Contempt of Congress order. Pointing to precedent in “Watergate, Whitewater, the Clinton/Gore Campaign Finance Case, Iran-Contra..” Chairman Nadler explained that the need to uphold the Congress authority and ability to conduct oversight demands the Attorney General follow Congressional Subpoenas and suffer the same consequences of anyone else who would refuse.
Rep Hank Johnson pleaded with members not to fall for the “Sweet Talk we’re hearing from our Republican friends.” Explaining how after years and years of sweet talk and begging and pleading with his wife, she finally agreed to marry him. “I won. But we can’t let Republicans win today and try to win us over with this Sweet Talk.”
Johnson questioned how it was possible for Republicans in March to vote unanimously to release the Report and now in May “everybody on that side doesn’t want to release the report. It doesn’t pass the smell test.” Rep. Mike Johnson offered an answer “We voted to release the Report within the bounds of the law and that’s what the Attorney General is doing!” Rep. Johnson reclaimed his time to avoid allowing the conversation to derail again “This Sweet Talk is obscuring the real issue and we need to stop the sweet talk and get to the business of voting for this motion and I would hope my colleagues on the Republican side with join with us in upholding the rule of law.”
In the middle of the hearing today the White House announced the President Trump is invoking Executive Privilege to block the release of the full Mueller Report.
After debating semantics and timelines the Committee voted along party lines to advance the Contempt of Congress order 24-16. The proposal now heads to the House of Representatives where it will be scheduled for a vote.
Chairman Nadler issued the following statement in a press gaggle after the committee hearing:
“We are now in a Constitutional Crisis. Benjamin Franklin in 1787 was asked when he exited the Constitutional Convention: ‘What type of government have you given us, sir?’
‘A Republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.’
“Now is the time of testing whether we can keep a republic or if this republic is destined to change into a more tyrannical form of government as other republics have over the centuries. We must resist this. This is far broader than Republican or Democratic or even the rights of Congress. This is whether we can put limits on the power of the president, any president, and the executive branch and hold the president, any president accountable. That’s what is at stake here. We cannot flinch and we will not flinch.”