House Democrats have officially introduced a resolution to hold Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWoodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Virginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins MORE and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.
The contempt resolution allows House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBiden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan Angelina Jolie spotted in Capitol meeting with senators MORE (D-N.Y.) to go to court to seek civil enforcement of the subpoena for Barr to turn over special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s unredacted report and underlying evidence, as well as for McGahn to provide documents and public testimony.
The resolution also gives any committee chair the rare power to go to federal court to seek civil enforcement of subpoenas, both current and future orders, so long as they are granted approval by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.
The House Rules Committee is expected to mark up the resolution to hold Barr and McGahn in contempt on Monday, according to a Democratic congressional aide, and the full House is slated to vote on the resolution Tuesday.
The measure, introduced by Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), comes as Democrats accuse the White House of unprecedented efforts to stonewall their legitimate investigations into President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE and his administration. The White House has accused Democrats of trying to score political points against Trump ahead of the 2020 election.
Nadler subpoenaed Barr for the full Mueller report in April following its release. The Justice Department has so far refused to turn over the full report and underlying evidence, arguing that doing so would amount to Barr violating the law by releasing grand jury material and compromising ongoing investigations.
Instead, Barr has offered for a select group of lawmakers, including Nadler, to view a less-redacted version of the report provided they keep its contents confidential. Democrats have rejected this arrangement as too limited.
The fight reached a fever pitch last month, as the Judiciary panel voted along party lines to hold Barr in contempt and Trump asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed materials on the attorney general’s recommendation.
Separately, the committee had subpoenaed McGahn for documents and public testimony, but he has refused to comply on instructions from the White House.
McGahn didn’t show up for a public hearing on May 21 after Trump told him not to testify, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that the former official is immune from compelled congressional testimony.
The resolution introduced Thursday includes language allowing the Judiciary committee to pursue civil contempt citations against Barr and McGahn in order to enforce the subpoenas. It does not include language authorizing them to pursue criminal contempt, which would have to be enforced by the Justice Department.
The plans to vote on the resolution mark a dramatic escalation in Democrats’ battle with the Trump administration.
Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor MORE (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, voiced concern that such a measure will pull power away from the full House and concentrate it in the power of five top House leaders — three top Democrats and two top Republicans -- to decide.
“The resolution takes power away from the 435 members of the House by giving only five members a vote for whether a chairman can sue to enforce subpoenas," Collins said in a statement. "In their zeal for Article II information, Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Nadler are skipping key steps on the road to that material. I fear House Democrats may be doing immeasurable harm to our Article 1 powers by taking weak cases to court.”
Democratic aides describe the resolution as a powerful expression to the courts about the White House refusing to comply with their “reasonable” requests and an effort to enforce subpoenas across the board. It is also a move that reaffirms the current rules, rather than changing them.
The aides emphasized that the case could potentially unlock many doors for the investigation if a judge rules the White House cannot assert absolute immunity from its officials testifying. If the judge makes a ruling that McGahn must testify, the aides said, it could also unblock the testimony of other officials that the White House has sought to stop from testifying.
Though the measure deals with civil contempt, a Democratic aide also noted that if Democrats come across behavior that is “egregious enough,” there may be additional criminal contempt proceedings.
Updated June 7, 10:25 a.m.