Law & the Courts

Democrats Bully Barr

Attorney General William Barr speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
Lawless lawmakers want lawman to break the law

Democrats have lashed Attorney General William Pelham Barr to the horns of a dilemma: He must choose either to violate or to obey federal law, and then await the consequences.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York and other Democrats subpoenaed Barr for a pristine copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russiagate report, complete with grand-jury testimony. Barr did not budge. The committee then voted 24–16 Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.

Alas for Barr, he is bound by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 6(e)(2)(b)(vi) states: “Unless these rules provide otherwise, the following persons must not disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury . . . an attorney for the government.” Even more ominous, under Rule 6(e)(7), “A knowing violation of Rule 6 . . . may be punished as a contempt of court.”

So, if Barr fails to deliver Mueller’s untouched findings, the full House will vote him in contempt of Congress, “when we’re ready,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) threatened Thursday. But if he caves under Democratic pressure, a federal judge could rule him in contempt of court.

Contempt of Congress or contempt of court? Barr is like a restaurant patron staring at a menu with just two choices: arsenic salad or cream of cyanide.

Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen E. Boyd reminded Nadler about this. “As we have repeatedly explained, the Attorney General could not comply with your subpoena in its current form without violating the law, court rules, and court orders, and without threatening the independence of the Department of Justice’s prosecutorial functions,” Boyd wrote Wednesday. “Rule 6(e) contains no exception that would permit the Department to provide grand-jury information to the Committee in connection with its oversight role.”

DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec was less diplomatic: “No one, including Chairman Nadler and his Committee, will force the Department of Justice to break the law.”

Democrats ignored this and approved their contempt motion along party lines.

Democrats cannot claim that Barr is hiding the Mueller Report. In fact, Boyd wrote Nadler, “the Attorney General offered you and other congressional leaders the chance to review the report with redactions only for grand-jury information (because disclosure of that information is prohibited by law). That would permit you to review 98.5 percent of the report, including 99.9 percent of Volume II, which discusses the investigation of the President’s actions.”

Volume II should make Democrats salivate. It features inconclusive evidence of President Trump’s possible (but uncharged) obstruction of justice. (Now that the Democrats’ Collusion coupe rusts atop cinderblocks like a Soviet-era Lada, they have sped off in their jazzy new Obstruction sedan.) Regardless, DOJ stated: “To date, not a single Democrat, including Chairman Nadler, has reviewed the minimally-redacted report,” available at Justice headquarters. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated Wednesday, “Not a single Democrat has even taken the time to go and look at it.”

Democrats are steering America into a constitutional crisis over a document, nearly all of which they already have at their fingertips — but refuse to touch. Nadler is like an infant screaming his lungs out for a brimming bottle of baby formula, even as the 98.5 percent–full bottle right beside him cools from neglect.

Ear-splitting Democrat tantrums are the only thanks that Barr gets for his transparency, which exceeds his obligations by light years. “Under federal regulations, the Special Counsel’s Report to the Attorney General is a ‘confidential report,’” DOJ explains, so “the Attorney General is under no legal requirement to disclose the report.”

Barr needed merely to inform Congress that Mueller found neither collusion nor obstruction. Barr could have scribbled this in 10 words, mailed his note, and then spent the day playing bagpipes (something Barr once did competitively). He then could have sliced the Mueller report into kindling for his summer Barrbecues.

Instead, Mueller released a report summary, answered journalists’ questions at a press conference, and published the lightly redacted report for Congress and the public to read and for pundits to debate until, as the Left claims, so-called “global warming” roasts the Earth in 12 years. Barr offered the Senate Intelligence Committee relevant, in-person, public testimony. He also volunteered to appear before House Judiciary — until Democrats upended 206 years of precedent, changed the rules, and arranged for Barr to be quizzed by unelected, unaccountable staffers rather than elected, co-equal House members. Barr also said he would not bar Mueller’s congressional testimony.

The attorney general faces trouble because his attempt to be 98.5 percent open about the Mueller report — without breaking Rule 6(e)(2)(b)(vi) — will not satisfy Democratic sore losers who still want to demolish President Trump — federal law be damned. Ironically, Bill Barr would be better off had he simply stiffed these lawless lawmakers and let them fetishize a one-sentence letter.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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