- The House Judiciary Committee began a formal process to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress on Monday for failing to turn over documents related to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
- The Democratic-led committee will vote on a resolution Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt. If the resolution passes a committee vote, it will move to the full floor of the House of Representatives for a final vote.
- If the measure is approved by the full House, lawmakers will begin the legal process to hold Barr in contempt.
- Barr has also been accused of lying to Congress about an apparent rift between him and Mueller.
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Lawmakers began a formal process Monday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
The House Judiciary Committee announced that it will vote on Wednesday to advance a contempt resolution against Barr. If the committee approves the resolution – which it is expected to – the measure will move to the floor of the House of Representatives for a full vote to authorize legal proceedings against Barr.
House Democrats and the Justice Department have been engaged in a protracted tug-of-war over the Mueller report since the special counsel first submitted his findings to the DOJ in March.
After releasing an initial summary laying out his “principal conclusions” on the Mueller report, Barr told Congress he would not release a full version of Mueller’s report because the document contained sensitive material and grand jury information that had to be redacted according to US law.
But Democrats are pushing for an un-redacted copy of Mueller’s report, arguing that Barr could obtain a judge’s permission to release it to Congress with minimal or no redactions.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the DOJ for the full Mueller report and its underlying evidence last month. The initial deadline for Barr to turn over the documents was May 1, which he missed.
On May 3, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler sent a letter to the attorney general requesting that the DOJ reconsider its refusal to allow all members of Congress – and some of their staffers – to view redacted portions of the report in a secure location, not including grand jury information.
Nadler also asked the DOJ to work with Congress to obtain a court order allowing the release of grand jury information. The DOJ did not agree to Nadler’s requests.
“Even in redacted form, the Special Counsel’s report offers disturbing evidence and analysis that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice at the highest levels,” Nadler said in a statement Monday. “Congress must see the full report and underlying evidence to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities.
“The Attorney General’s failure to comply with our subpoena, after extensive accommodation efforts, leaves us no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings in order to enforce the subpoena and access the full, unredacted report,” the statement continued. “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.”
Lawmakers accuse Barr of lying to Congress
The attorney general is also at the center of a firestorm surrounding testimony he gave to a House appropriations subcommittee in April, in which several Democrats have accused him of lying to Congress.
The hearing came about two weeks after Barr released his initial summary of the Mueller probe’s findings. In the summary, which was sent on March 24, Barr said prosecutors did not gather sufficient evidence to charge President Donald Trump or anyone associated with his campaign with conspiring with the Russian government to sway the 2016 election.
Barr also said Mueller’s team declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump obstructed justice, but the attorney general consulted with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and determined Trump did not commit an obstruction crime.
Days later, several news reports also said Mueller’s team was frustrated and disappointed with the way Barr had portrayed their findings in the obstruction case, in which they said the evidence was “significant” and “alarming.”
When Barr testified before the appropriations subcommittee on April 10, Rep. Charlie Crist asked Barr whether Mueller supported his conclusions in the obstruction case.
“I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion,” Barr replied.
Crist also asked Barr about media reports at the time that said members of Mueller’s team were frustrated “at some level with the limited information included in your March 24 letter – that it does not adequately or accurately, necessarily, portray the report’s findings.”
“Do you know what they’re referencing with that?” Crist asked.
“No, I don’t,” Barr said.
But last week, it surfaced that Mueller sent Barr two letters expressing disagreement over how his conclusions in the Russia probe were portrayed in Barr’s March 24 letter.
On March 25, Mueller sent a letter outlining his concerns with the summary. Mueller sent a second letter to the attorney general on March 27, in which he said Barr’s March 24 letter “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.”
When Mueller’s letters became public, several top congressional Democrats accused the attorney general of lying to Congress.