National Security

Nadler threatens Barr with contempt in Mueller report request

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Friday sent a letter to the Department of Justice indicating he is willing to move forward with holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress if the committee does not receive subpoenaed information on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Nadler, who has subpoenaed the Justice Department for Mueller’s full report and its underlying evidence, reiterated his demand for the report in its entirety and signaled he is willing to make some concessions in order to obtain certain files from the special counsel’s investigation.

{mosads}He also indicated this was his only counteroffer before moving to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for his failure to respond to the subpoena.

The Justice Department has until Monday to respond to the letter, Nadler said.

“The Committee is prepared to make every realistic effort to reach an accommodation with the Department. But if the Department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with the validly issued subpoena, the Committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse,” Nadler wrote.

He asked Barr to reconsider his decision not to allow all members of Congress to view a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report, and renewed his request that the Justice Department work jointly with Congress to petition a federal court to release the grand jury material from Mueller’s findings.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

Nadler also said his panel is willing to “prioritize” the production of specific investigative files that underlie Mueller’s report, saying the committee has a “heightened interest” in obtaining files that are cited in the 448-page document. Those include witness interviews and contemporaneous notes taken by witnesses.

{mossecondads}“Since these materials are publicly cited and described in the Mueller report, there can be no question about the Committee’s need for and right to this underlying evidence in order to independently evaluate the facts that Special Counsel Mueller uncovered and fulfill our constitutional duties,” Nadler wrote. “In addition, to the extent these materials are classified or contain sensitive law enforcement information, we are prepared to maintain their confidentiality as we regularly do with similar information.”

Nadler said the panel is “prepared to discuss limiting and prioritizing” its request for all documents and investigative files from Mueller’s investigation.

The letter represents the latest escalation in a standoff between Congress and the executive branch over the special counsel’s report, a redacted version of which Barr released on April 18 that restricts grand jury material, details on ongoing investigations and other sensitive data.

The letter came one day after Barr did not appear for scheduled testimony before Nadler’s committee. The attorney general cited Democrats’ insistence that committee counsels be permitted to question him, a condition the Justice Department deemed “unprecedented” and “inappropriate.”

Barr has allowed the leaders of the Senate and House judiciary committees, as well as the Gang of Eight congressional leaders, to view a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report in a security room, on the condition they do not discuss it publicly. However, Democrats have rejected that offer, arguing that all members of Congress should be able to view the report and talk about it.

Nadler issued a subpoena for Mueller’s full report and underlying evidence on April 19; the Justice Department informed him on Wednesday that it would not comply with the subpoena.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to Nadler on Wednesday that the subpoena is “not legitimate oversight” and said the panel had failed to articulate any “legitimate legislative purpose” for requesting the entirety of Mueller’s underlying evidence. He noted that the Justice Department could not send the full unredacted report to Congress because it contains grand jury material, which is subject to secrecy rules absent a court order.

Boyd asserted that Barr had already made “extraordinary accommodations” to Congress with respect to the special counsel 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 added that the Justice Department was 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.”

On Friday, Nadler accused the Justice Department of departing from past accommodations made to Congress as part of their oversight investigations. He cited the hundreds of thousands of pages of files from the Hillary Clinton email investigation that the Justice Department produced to Congress.

Nadler also rejected the argument that the requests do not serve a “legitimate” legislative purpose, noting the committee’s “ample jurisdiction” to conduct oversight of the Justice Department, undertake investigations, and consider legislation regarding federal obstruction statutes, special counsel investigations and other matters.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the committee’s top Republican, blasted Nadler on Friday for placing “absurd demands” on the Justice Department. He also said Nadler’s request for grand jury material was like asking Barr to break the law.

“Democrats continue to deliver inaccurate statements and abusive politics, while demanding the attorney general either break the law or face contempt charges,” Collins said in a statement. “Their chief complaint against the attorney general is his upholding the rule of law when they wish him to disregard it.”

Updated at 2:32 p.m.

Tags Doug Collins Hillary Clinton Jerrold Nadler Robert Mueller William Barr
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