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House Democrats Vote to Hold Barr in Contempt: White House Asserts Executive Privilege Over Mueller Report

05-08-2019
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House Democrats move to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress. They say William Barr is withholding parts of the Mueller report. 

Holding the attorney general in the contempt comes as the White House makes its own moves – asserting executive privilege over the entirety of the special counsel document, which means a constitutional conflict between Congress and the Justice Department.

The last time Congress held an attorney general in contempt was in 2012 when Republicans moved against then-Obama Attorney General Eric Holder. 

Republicans claim that's a bad precedent since Holder had 255 days to comply with a subpoena. Barr has had less than a month. 

Republicans say Democrats are putting Barr between a rock and a hard place.

"He has asked the AG to break the law and if he will not break the law, he will hold him in contempt," said US Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 

At issue -- redacted portions of the Mueller report, including secret grand jury material, and that's related to several ongoing investigations.

"To the extent that we have asked the department for grand jury info, which is protected by the law, all we have ever asked in petitioning the court to determine if it is proper for us to have access to this material," said US Rep. Jerrold Nadler, (D-NY), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 

The judiciary committee's party-line vote to hold the attorney general in contempt now heads to the House floor. 

"This is not a step we take lightly," Nadler explained. 

But Republicans say the rush to contempt reveals an ulterior motive - to erode Barr's credibility ahead of new investigations. 

As Nadler moves to force Barr's hand, the White House is countering with a protective assertion of executive privilege. 

"The president now seeks to take a wrecking ball to the Constitution of the United States of America," said US Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

Democrats are shouting fire. 

"We are in danger," US Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) said. "We need to respond."

Meanwhile, Republicans are crying foul. 

"I'm really here in mourning for a once great judiciary committee," said US Rep. Louis Gohmert, (R-Texas) 

Gohmert says the Democrats are barking up the wrong tree.   

"What does this committee do about the abuses, the attempted coup?" he asked. "It comes in, and decides, we're going to go after the attorney general who's trying to clean up the mess." 

A contempt of Congress resolution voted on by the full House could give Democrats ammunition in potentially impeaching Barr. 

Asked about that prospect Wednesday morning at a Washington Post event, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "Nothing is ever off the table."

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