The Corner

Law & the Courts

On Contempt, It’s Nadler versus Barr

Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, May 1, 2019. (Aaron Bernstein/Reuters)

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday morning on holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to make the full Mueller report widely available to Congress.

But the Justice Department is accusing congressional Democrats of playing politics. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter on Monday that if congressional Democratic leaders really cared about transparency, they would have read an almost entirely unredacted version of the report that’s been available to them for weeks.

The Mueller report that was made available to the public on April 18 redacted four types of information: grand-jury material, sensitive intelligence, matters that could affect ongoing investigations, and material that would infringe on the privacy of “peripheral third parties.” Barr made a version of the report available to congressional leaders of both parties and the chairmen and ranking members of intelligence and judiciary committees in the House and Senate that only excluded grand-jury material, which legally must be kept secret. So far, none of the six Democrats provided with the opportunity to review this fuller version of the report has taken the opportunity to do so.

Boyd’s letter on Monday said that congressional Democrats’ refusal to read the fuller report already available to them “naturally raises questions about the sincerity of the committee’s interest in and purported need for the redacted material.”

So why haven’t congressional Democrats taken up Barr’s offer? They argue that the full report, including grand-jury material (which could be released via judicial order), needs to be made available to the entire Congress. And they say that if they were to take a look at what’s already available to them that would undercut their negotiating position.

“Every member of Congress ought to be able to see that version,” Mark Warner, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tells National Review. “I think if I were to go, you’d lessen the case.”

“If we are going to do a thorough dive into what Bob Mueller found into potential criminality by the president of the United States, that’s not something we can share with only a handful of members who are prohibited from discussing it with others,” says House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff.

Only two of the six Republicans who have been given the opportunity to read the less-redacted version had done so as of last week. After reviewing it, Senate judiciary committee chairman Lindsey Graham told Politico: “Nothing changed for me.”

Late Tuesday evening, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement that his committee would proceed with a vote on the contempt resolution because the Department of Justice had rejected his demands and “announced that it would instead ask President Trump to invoke executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena.”

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