Justice Department protests Dem decision to set up contempt vote on Barr

The Department of Justice on Monday protested a move by House Democrats to begin contempt proceedings against Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrGOP rep predicts watchdog report on alleged FISA abuses will find 'problems' Barr defends Trump's use of executive authority, slams impeachment hearings GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse MORE, arguing the House Judiciary Committee was rushing the issue despite Barr's willingness to quickly disclose a redacted version of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE's report.

Democrats earlier on Monday scheduled a vote Wednesday to consider a contempt citation of Barr unless he provides Mueller's full report to Congress along with supporting evidence. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Anger with Barr among Democrats was heightened after it was revealed last week that Mueller wrote to Barr complaining about the way he had initially summarized his report in a public letter to Congress. 

Barr also appeared before a Senate panel last week, where he was grilled by Democrats over his handling of the Mueller report.

Democrats are upset with Barr's letter, which they think helped cement a narrative on the report's conclusions that was more positive for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE than was in the actual report.

Mueller in his letter wrote that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinDemocrats ask judge to force McGahn to comply with subpoena Democrats ask court to force DOJ's hand on Mueller grand jury materials Washington celebrates diplomacy — and baseball — at Meridian Ball MORE had decided there was not sufficient evidence to find that Trump had obstructed justice with actions related to an FBI investigation of Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. Mueller's report did not exonerate Trump on that issue but did not reach a conclusion.

"We were disappointed that the Committee took initial steps this morning toward moving forward with the contempt process," Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in the Monday letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' What this 'impeachment' is really about — and it's not the Constitution MORE (D-N.Y.).

ADVERTISEMENT
"The Department reiterates its concerns with the Committee’s rush to issue a subpoena immediately after the Attorney General took the extraordinary step of publicly disclosing, with as few redactions as possible, the confidential report of Special counsel Mueller III, and after he took the further step of making an even-less-redacted version available to a bipartisan group of congressional leaders," the letter said.

Boyd wrote that Justice was willing to negotiate with Democrats, including by allowing a select group of lawmakers to see the unredacted report. This offer would apply to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees as well as the Gang of Eight lawmakers, which Democrats at the time of the offer blasted as being too limited. 

He also initially offered to further discuss the matter with Nadler's office on Wednesday afternoon — the same day as the markup hearing for the contempt citation — while pressing the chairman to reconsider his decision against reviewing a less-redacted version of the Mueller report.

Nadler later on Monday issued a statement saying Justice had agreed to meet with his office on Tuesday. 

"It remains vital that the Committee obtain access to the full, unredacted report and the underlying materials," Nadler said. "At the moment, our plans to consider holding Attorney General Barr accountable for his failure to comply with our subpoena still stand. My hope is that we make concrete progress at tomorrow’s meeting towards resolving this dispute. The Committee remains committed to finding a reasonable accommodation."

"In order to make the meeting productive, we believe that it would make sense for you to at least review the less redacted version of the report in advance, and we will take steps to ensure that it remains available to you prior to the meeting,” Boyd wrote.

In scheduling Wednesday's vote, Nadler said in a statement that the attorney general left his panel with “no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings in order to enforce the subpoena and access the full, un-redacted report.” 

Republicans, who blasted the move to schedule a contempt markup, praised Barr for seeing to accommodate Democrats. 

"After far exceeding what the regulations require and offering to field questions from Congress, the attorney general faces demands from Democrat leadership who refuse to read the information he’s offered," Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Former Ukraine envoy offers dramatic testimony GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse House to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members MORE (Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, said in a statement. "I appreciate the respect Attorney General Barr is showing our committee by responding to a deluge of perverse demands."

Updated: 7:38 p.m.