Nadler threatens contempt citation against Barr
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is threatening a contempt citation against Attorney General William Barr if the Justice Department (DOJ) does not comply with a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday evening, Nadler said that if he is unable to reach a “reasonable” agreement with the DOJ “in the next day or two,” he would seek a contempt citation against Barr.
“I will continue to work with the attorney general to reach a reasonable accommodation on the access to the full report and the underlying evidence — but not for much longer,” Nadler said. “There are many questions that must be answered.”
Barr released a reacted version of the Mueller report last month, but Nadler quickly subpoenaed for the full report, setting a deadline of May 1. Nadler said Wednesday that the administration informed him they would not turn over the report.
Roughly 10 percent of the public report is redacted to conceal grand jury material, details on ongoing investigations, classified information and details that could impact the privacy of third parties. Barr has allowed a select group of lawmakers, including Nadler, to review a less-redacted version of the report, but Democrats have objected to the arrangement because it leaves many in Congress unable to view information.
In a Wednesday letter to Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that the subpoena is “not legitimate oversight” and that the committee had not articulated any “legitimate legislative purpose” for requesting the entirety of Mueller’s underlying evidence.
Boyd also wrote the department could not give the panel access to Mueller’s full unredacted report because it contains grand jury material, which is subject to secrecy rules and cannot be released in the absence of a court order.
Boyd asserted that Barr had already made “extraordinary accommodations” to Congress with respect to Mueller’s report and is willing to meet the “legitimate information needs” of the committee.
“But this subpoena is not legitimate oversight. The requests in the subpoena are overbroad and extraordinarily burdensome. More importantly, these requests would pose a fundamental threat to the confidentiality of law enforcement files and the Department’s commitment to keep law enforcement investigations free of political interference,” Boyd wrote.
He said the Department was “unable” to provide Mueller’s files but is not closing the door “on engaging with the Committee about potential further accommodations in response to a properly focused and narrow inquiry that is supported by a legitimate legislative purpose.”
Barr was supposed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday on Mueller’s report, but informed Nadler on Wednesday that he would not be showing up due to the Justice Department’s objections to Democrats’ plans to have committee staff question the attorney general in addition to members of Congress grilling Barr.
The attorney general testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
–Updated 8:19 p.m.