National Security

Nadler rejects DOJ offer on Barr contempt vote

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is dismissing a bid from the Justice Department to renew negotiations with his panel if the lower chamber cancels a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt next week.

In a letter to Attorney General William Barr Tuesday evening, Nadler urged the Justice Department “to return to the accommodation process without conditions” and said the House was not moving prematurely to punish Barr for failing to comply with the committee’s demands.

“The pace with which we are proceeding is consistent with the exceptional urgency of this matter: an attack on our elections that was welcomed by our President and benefited his campaign, followed by acts of obstruction by the President designed to interfere with the investigation of that attack,” Nadler wrote.

In a letter to Nadler earlier Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that the Justice Department is “prepared to resume negotiations” with the committee on a narrowed request for special counsel Robert Mueller’s materials “provided that the Committee takes reasonable steps to restore the status quo ante by mooting its May 8 vote and removing any threat of an imminent vote by the House of Representatives to hold the Attorney General in contempt.”

{mosads}Boyd cited what he described as a willingness expressed by the committee in previous correspondence to narrow the scope of the subpoena.

“The Department believes that the Committee’s new offer reflects a more reasonable request and could mitigate some of the legal barriers to disclosure that we have discussed,” Boyd wrote. 

House leaders on Monday scheduled a vote to hold Barr in contempt of Congress on June 11 for failing to comply with a subpoena for the full, unredacted Mueller report as well as its underlying evidence.

It’s unclear whether the department will continue to negotiate with the committee in light of Nadler’s response. Nadler wrote that his committee stands “ready to negotiate as early as tomorrow morning” if the Justice Department returns to the table.

The House could ultimately decide to cancel the contempt vote if the two parties reach some kind of agreement before next Tuesday, but that appears unlikely given the nature of negotiations thus far.

The Justice Department has offered to allow a select group of lawmakers to view a less-redacted version of the report than has been released to the public in a secure room provided they don’t discuss its contents, but Democrats, who have criticized Barr’s handling of the report, have rejected the arrangement as far too limited. 

Nadler subpoenaed the materials following the release of Mueller’s redacted report in April. The Justice Department engaged in negotiations with the committee but refused the committee’s demands as laid out in the subpoena, saying releasing the full report — including grand jury material and details on ongoing investigations — to the panel would amount to violating the law.

Trump asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed materials on Barr’s recommendation on May 8 as the committee moved to approve a contempt resolution for the attorney general.

In his letter Tuesday, Boyd reiterated the Justice Department’s position that the contempt vote was “premature and unnecessary” and said the department was further “disappointed” by reports that the House had scheduled the contempt vote for June 11.

Boyd wrote that the department is “mindful of its constitutional obligation” and willing to explore ways to accommodate the committee’s “legitimate interests.” He pointed to the Justice Department’s breakthrough in negotiations with the House Intelligence Committee, which had subpoenaed for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence materials related to Mueller’s investigation as well as the unredacted report and underlying evidence.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) postponed a vote to enforce that subpoena last month, after the department agreed to begin producing some of the intelligence documents sought by the committee. The agreement did not cover the committee’s demands for the full Mueller report.

Olivia Beavers contributed.

Tags Adam Schiff Contempt Jerrold Nadler Judiciary Committee Mueller investigation Robert Mueller William Barr

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