Live coverage: House panel moves forward with Barr contempt vote

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Wednesday to hold Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrAttorney General Barr's license to kill Medical examiner confirms Epstein death by suicide Justice Dept. says Mueller report has been downloaded 800 million times MORE in contempt after the Justice Department declined to turn over an unredacted copy of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE’s report, which the committee had ordered via subpoena. 

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The Justice Department has accused committee Democrats of making unreasonable demands despite good-faith attempts by Barr to negotiate with them.

Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerGOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' House Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death French officials call for investigation of Epstein 'links with France' MORE (D-N.Y.) accused the Justice Department of “obstruction” in a statement late Tuesday and said his panel would move forward with the contempt vote as planned.

The committee markup began shortly after 10 a.m. Follow along with live coverage here.

Committee adjourns

4:33 p.m. 

Shortly following the vote, Nadler adjourned the contempt markup at 4:31 p.m., after more than six hours of debate over the citation.

— Olivia Beavers

Committee votes to hold Barr in contempt along party lines 

4:31 p.m. 

The committee voted to hold Barr in contempt in a party-line vote of 24-16, roughly six and a half hours after the hearing began.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Jackson Lee alleges 'Saturday Night Massacre of obstruction'

4:20 p.m. 

Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeJackson Lee: 'Racism is a national security threat' Most oppose cash reparations for slavery: poll Poll: Most Americans oppose reparations MORE (D-Fla.) tore into the Trump administration over its refusal to hand over the full Mueller report, calling it a “Saturday Night Massacre of obstruction.”

“You cannot ignore the series of meetings and engagements that the staff has had,” Jackson Lee said. “But what occurred in the last 48 hours was a Saturday Night Massacre of rejection.”

She said that the DOJ had “stopped in its tracks working with us,” and slammed the department for sending a pair of letters earlier Wednesday saying that it would stop negotiations and ask the White House to assert executive privilege over the materials

“There was not space to be able to engage in a discussion if you receive a letter of disappointment, saying we are not moving forward anymore,” Jackson Lee said. 

“What more do you think people who are fact finders can do if our negotiation partners have turned the lights out and have implemented a Saturday Night Massacre with letters and refused to negotiate?” she added.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Democrats, Republicans squabble over grand jury material 

3:40 p.m. 

Following the recess, Republicans and Democrats on the panel entered into an extended argument over the subpoena’s demands as they pertain to grand jury material.

Nadler said his original subpoena was not meant to order Barr to release grand jury material, which is covered by federal secrecy rules. Instead, he said, it was meant to ask Barr to help the committee in petitioning a court for the material’s release.

But Republicans took issue with his remarks, noting the original subpoena instructs the Justice Department to produce the “complete and unredacted version” of the report.

“We’re making a big mountain out of a small part of this,” Nadler responded, noting the “main thing” at issue in the committee is the DOJ’s “stonewalling” of its request for the report and underlying evidence.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Committee reconvenes 

2:41 p.m. 

Nadler gaveled back in around 2:45 p.m. after lawmakers voted and ate lunch. The committee resumed debate on amendments to the chairman’s contempt resolution.

— Morgan Chalfant

Committee recesses for an hour

1:30 p.m.

Nadler declared the committee in a brief recess, so lawmakers could vote. The markup will reconvene at 2:30 p.m.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Nadler says lawmakers will ask judge to release grand jury materials

1 p.m. 

Nadler said the House Judiciary Committee will petition a court to ask for grand jury material included in the Mueller report to be exempted from federal statute.

“We certainly intend to do that,” he said.

He said that while the lawmakers will make that request, Barr joining their petition would strengthen it.

Nadler said that if making that request requires the approval of the committee, he will set up a vote to do so. 

Barr has indicated that he will not request that a judge consider releasing the grand jury materials. 

He has pointed to a recent ruling out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that found courts don’t have an inherent authority to release grand jury information that does not fit into existing exemptions.

District Judge Beryl A. Howell, an Obama nominee, would likely be the one to make the call on whether the materials can be released to Congress. 

— Jacqueline Thomsen 

Nadler offers amendment to address executive privilege assertion 

12:59 p.m.

Nadler offered an amendment to the contempt resolution formally expressing the committee’s objections to Trump’s decision to assert executive privilege over the subpoenaed materials Wednesday morning.

“The Committee has a number of concerns about the validity of this assertion,” the amendment states. It describes the president’s action as not a “valid claim of privilege, including because executive privilege has been broadly waived in this case as a matter of law and fact,” according to a copy of the measure.

The amendment also objects to the timing of the privilege assertion, noting it could have been made earlier — “at the very least, by May 1, 2019, the subpoena return date.”

It also asserts that the Justice Department has failed to provide “any details” that would aid the committee in evaluating the applicability of the privilege claim.

“There is substantial evidence indicating that the President engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct, and therefore the public interest in the fair administration of justice outweighs the President’s generalized interest in confidentiality,” the amendment states.

— Morgan Chalfant 

GOP lawmaker introduces amendment to emphasize Barr does not need to break law

12:44 p.m. 

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzI'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Gaetz cleared by Florida Bar after Cohen tweet probe Bottom Line MORE (R-Fla.), a vocal ally of the president's, introduced an amendment to the contempt resolution that would make clear Barr does not need to break any law or federal procedure as Democrats seek to gain access to redacted information like grand jury materials.

"Do the rule of law of favor," Gaetz said.

“No provision in this Resolution or Report shall be construed as a directive for the Attorney General to violate Federal law or rules, including but not limited to Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,” the amendment reads.

Nadler responded that he isn’t asking Barr to break the law, he is asking the attorney general to go to court with Democrats to seek the grand jury material or not block them in the pursuit of the materials.

— Olivia Beavers 

Swalwell says panel should move to impeach Barr

12:00 p.m. 

Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellHickenlooper ends presidential bid Scenes from Iowa State Fair: Surging Warren, Harris draw big crowds Nadler hits gas on impeachment MORE (D-Calif.), who is running for president, said the committee should move to impeach Barr if he does not succumb to their demands.

He accused Barr of burying the evidence of Russian interference, describing it as an “attack” by a foreign adversary.

Swalwell said it was only necessary that the committee hold Barr in contempt for not turning over Mueller’s full report and evidence.

“Then you move to impeach him,” Swalwell said. “And you do the same thing to anyone else who doesn’t want to follow the law.”

“This is not about executive privilege,” Swalwell said. “This is about burying the evidence, Mr. Chairman.”

Swalwell also described Barr’s offer to allow select lawmakers to view the report on the condition of confidentiality as a “hush offer" — an apparent reference to Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Hope Hicks defends accuracy of her congressional testimony Gaetz cleared by Florida Bar after Cohen tweet probe MORE’s hush money payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump before the 2016 election.

“I thank you for not taking the latest trump hush offer,” Swalwell said. 

— Morgan Chalfant 

Democrat mentions impeachment

11:15 a.m. 

Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Why target Tucker Carlson? It's part of the left's war on the right The Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? MORE (D-Ga.) explicitly brought up impeachment during his remarks, saying the committee needs the documents in order to carry out its constitutional duties, including potential impeachment.

“How can we impeach without getting the documents?” Johnson said, noting the committee needs the documents in order to conduct hearings that could eventually lead to impeachment.

— Morgan Chalfant

Jordan: Dems are 'afraid' of Barr

11:10 a.m. 

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDemocratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal DOJ releases notes from official Bruce Ohr's Russia probe interviews CNN slams GOP for not appearing on network after mass shootings, conservatives fire back MORE (R-Ohio) condemned Democrats on the committee for holding the vote on the contempt resolution, suggesting that they are attempting to prevent Barr for investigating the launch of the Russia probe.

"Bill Barr’s following the law and what’s he going to get? Democrats are going to hold him in contempt," Jordan said.

The House Freedom Caucus member said that he believes the efforts are "all about trying to destroy Bill Barr."

"Democrats are nervous he’s going to get to the bottom of everything," Jordan said. "He’s going to find out how and why this investigation got started in the first place."

And he argued that the House Judiciary Committee was not doing its job in seeking to protect the rule of law.

"In the partisan commotion surrounding the Mueller report, it would be well to remember that what can be done to a president can be done to any of us. And this committee is supposed to look out for that fundamental fact more than anything else, and we are not doing that today," Jordan said.

After Jordan's remarks, Nadler asked if the conservative lawmaker was still interested in his previous call for the entire report to be released to Congress.

Jordan said that he was, but only in a way that was consistent with the law.

And Jordan then pressed Nadler as to why he was pushing for the documents now, when Mueller may testify before the committee next week. 

The chairman replied that it would be "useful" to review the full unredacted report and the underlying evidence ahead of any testimony by Mueller.

There has been no formal announcement that Mueller will appear before the committee next week, although it has been suggested that he could testify on May 15.

— Jacqueline Thomsen 

Trump tweets 'Fox & Friends' quotes deriding Russia probe

10:45 a.m.

As the hearing unfolded, Trump called the Russia investigation a "treasonous hoax" and tweeted out a quote from "Fox & Friends" co-host Ainsley Earhardt calling for an investigation into the origins of the probe.

“'Everyone wants to know who needs to be accountable, because it took up two years of our lives talking about this Russian involvement. It proved No Collusion, & people want to trace it back to see how this all happened?'" Trump tweeted, apparently quoting Earnhardt.

"TREASONOUS HOAX!" he added.

 

Trump then quoted another "Fox & Friends" co-host, Brian Kilmeade, who questioned the focus on the so-called Steele dossier before the 2016 election. The dossier contained largely unverified information about Trump's ties to Russia.

 

The president's tweets came shortly after the White House's assertion of executive privilege over Mueller's report, which did not establish conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mueller investigated 10 episodes where Trump may have obstructed justice, but neither exonerated nor implicated him in the crime.

— Brett Samuels

Collins blasts Dems for attacks on Barr

10:37 p.m. 

Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Democratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal Activist groups push House Judiciary leaders to end mass phone data collection MORE (Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, blasted Democrats in his opening remarks for rejecting Barr’s multiple attempts to accommodate their demands and for their decision to quickly move to hold him in contempt.

“The attorney general also volunteered to testify before this committee about the report’s conclusions and his role in sharing the report, and, as we all witnessed, Democrat gamesmanship forced the attorney general to forgo the scheduled hearing last week. On Monday, the Justice Department offered to meet to discuss accommodations. Yesterday, they made a reasonable offer to avert this spectacle, and, once again, the chairman declined.” 

Collins also said Democrats are moving at “lightning speed” in their attack against Barr, stating that they are moving “more than 10 times faster” than the GOP-controlled House Oversight and Reform Committee did when they sought to hold then-Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderGOP governor vetoes New Hampshire bill to create independent redistricting commission Why target Tucker Carlson? It's part of the left's war on the right The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama legacy under spotlight after Detroit debates MORE in contempt during the Obama administration over the “Fast and Furious” gun-running operation. 

“Rather than face the music, Democrats have resolved to neutralize Bill Barr by attacking his integrity and distinguished career,” Collins added. “This is the first step. What a cynical, mean-spirited, counterproductive and irresponsible step it is.”

— Olivia Beavers

Nadler unloads on Trump administration in opening statement

10:30 a.m. 

Nadler opened the hearing with a scathing criticism of the Trump administration over its refusal to comply with House Democrats’ request to view the Mueller report.

The Judiciary Committee chairman said that the markup to hold Barr in contempt is “not a step we take lightly,” pointing to months of negotiations over attempts to obtain the report.

He said that committee staff responded “in good faith” to the Justice Department's last-minute efforts to provide the report, but that they failed to reach a deal.

And Nadler responded to the White House’s assertion of executive privilege over all Mueller report documents, calling it a “clear escalation of the Trump administration’s constant defiance” of Congress’s investigations and powers.

“The Trump administration has take obstruction of Congress to new heights,” Nadler said. “Unfortunately, the attorney general has been all too willing to support the president in this endeavor.”

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Trump exerts executive privilege over full Mueller report

10:15 a.m.

Trump asserted executive privilege over Mueller’s unredacted report and the underlying evidence, the Justice Department said.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd notified the House Judiciary Committee of the development in a letter Wednesday morning as the committee was prepared to vote on the contempt citation against Barr. 

“We are disappointed that you have rejected the Department of Justice’s request to delay the vote of the Committee on the Judiciary on a contempt finding against the Attorney General this morning,” Boyd wrote in a letter Nadler.

“Accordingly, this is to advise you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials.”

— Morgan Chalfant

White House slams Nadler, pledges not to comply with requests

10:15 a.m.

The White House issued a scathing statement pledging not to comply with Nadler's demands, which press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah Elizabeth SandersSarah Sanders: Democrats should 'quit lying and do their jobs' Biden pledges return to daily press briefings as president Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House 'with my head held high' MORE Sanders decried as "unlawful and reckless." 

"Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege," she said in a statement issued just as the hearing was set to begin.

"It is sad that Chairman Nadler is only interested in pandering to the press and pleasing his radical left constituency," Sanders continued. "The American people deserve a Congress that is focused on solving real problems like the crisis at the border, high prescription drug prices, our country’s crumbling infrastructure, and so much more.”

Sanders suggested Democrats are unhappy with the results of Mueller's report, which she asserted vindicated the president. Democrats have argued the full report is needed as part of ongoing investigations into the president's potential abuse of power and obstruction of justice. 

 

— Brett Samuels

Nadler gavels in contempt markup 

10:11 a.m.

Nadler gaveled in at approximately 10:11 a.m. to start the contempt markup.

— Olivia Beavers

Trump shares quote calling treatment of Barr 'real obstruction of justice'

9 a.m.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE weighed in ahead of the hearing via Twitter, sharing a quote from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

"'The real "Obstruction of Justice" is what the Democrats are trying to do to this Attorney General,'" Trump tweeted, attributing the quote to a Jordan appearance on Fox Business Network.

 

The president has not directly spoken about the looming contempt vote but has pledged to fight "all the subpoenas" from Democrats and repeatedly praised Barr's performance as attorney general.

A number of Democrats have raised concerns that Trump obstructed justice after the special counsel neither implicated nor exonerated him on the charge.

— Brett Samuels

Pelosi says Barr should be held in contempt

8:55 a.m.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Pelosi hits Trump, Netanyahu for 'weakness' amid tensions over Omar and Tlaib In Hong Kong, the need for peaceful persistence MORE (D-Calif.) said she believes Barr should be held in contempt. 

Pelosi said at a Washington Post event that she believes the House Judiciary Committee had been accommodating to the need to protect sources and methods, and that she expected the Department of Justice to deliver a counteroffer before threatening to assert executive privilege over the document. 

“Yes, [Barr] should be held in contempt,” she said. “Now, that doesn’t include his not showing up to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, like it’s safer in a Republican majority in the Senate. It doesn’t include a misrepresenting, withholding the truth from the Congress. Some would call that lying. I don’t like that word, but you can’t do that."

"But for the purposes of the course we’re on right now in terms of withholding the information, the unredacted version of the Mueller report for the American people to see and to know," she continued. "And again, the accommodation that the committee was putting forth ... it was very accommodating."

She said she will allow the committee process to play out and would hear the panel's recommendation about bringing it the floor of the House for a vote. 

— Brett Samuels