DOJ says it won't prosecute Barr, Ross after criminal contempt vote

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday that federal prosecutors will not prosecute Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFederal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe Mulvaney ties withheld Ukraine aid to political probe sought by Trump MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossUS ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out US imposes new sanctions on Cuba over human rights, Venezuela Commerce Department to develop stats on income inequality MORE following a House vote to hold the officials in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.

“The Department of Justice’s long-standing position is that we will not prosecute an official for contempt of Congress for declining to provide information subject to a presidential assertion of executive privilege,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash Scrap House defense authorization provision benefitting Russia MORE (D-Calif.).

The House had rebuked the Trump Cabinet members by passing a criminal contempt resolution earlier this month, largely along party lines. However, it was widely presumed that the Justice Department would not pursue a criminal referral against the top DOJ official.

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The full House vote came after the House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed the Commerce and Justice departments earlier this year for documents relating to since-abandoned efforts to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

The panel voted largely along party lines last month to hold Barr and Ross in contempt for failing to comply with those subpoenas. The agencies told lawmakers shortly before the vote was scheduled to be held that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE had asserted executive privilege over the requested documents.

Rosen pointed to Trump's assertion of executive privilege in his letter to Pelosi on Wednesday. And he highlighted DOJ declining to prosecute officials during previous administrations, such as former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials We can't allow presidents and public opinion to further diminish the work of the press Democrats sue over North Carolina's congressional maps MORE after the House voted to hold him in contempt in 2012.

“Consistent with this long-standing position and uniform practice, the Department has determined that the responses by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Commerce to the subpoenas issued by the Committee on Oversight and Reform did not constitute a crime, and accordingly the Department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General or the Secretary,” Rosen wrote.

The Hill has reached out to the offices of House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBaltimore mayor looks to rename downtown courthouse after Cummings Cummings to lie in state at the Capitol Gowdy remembers political opponent, good friend Elijah Cummings MORE (D-Md.) and Pelosi for comment.

The announcement came on a busy news day, shortly after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE wrapped up his highly anticipated testimony before a pair of House panels on Capitol Hill.

The Trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census were long challenged by Democrats and advocacy groups, who argued that the question's addition would lead to an undercount of the population, particularly for immigrant and minority communities.

The matter was challenged in several federal courts, and the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last month that the question couldn’t be added to the census under the administration's rationale that it would help to enforce the Voting Rights Act, reasoning the high court called "contrived."

While Trump initially signaled that he would still try to get the question on next year’s census, he ultimately gave up the effort. He instead announced an executive order directing federal agencies to provide information on citizenship to the Commerce Department.