House Democrats Move Forward On William Barr Contempt Vote After Negotiations Fail

A last-minute negotiation session between the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee over the full Mueller report didn't work out.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will go ahead with a scheduled vote on Wednesday that will move them toward holding U.S. Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress after the Justice Department failed to produce the full report from special counsel Robert Mueller along with its underlying evidence.

The decision comes after House Judiciary staffers met with Justice Department officials to negotiate over access to a less-redacted version of the report on Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

In a letter on Tuesday, the Justice Department told the committee that President Donald Trump may assert executive privilege over some Mueller-related materials. 

Attorney General William Barr before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1.
Attorney General William Barr before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, indicated earlier Tuesday that there had been no change in his plans to hold a hearing on the Barr contempt report at 10 a.m. Wednesday. A Democratic aide said late Tuesday that the meeting was still scheduled.

Responding to the Justice Department’s letter, Nadler said in a statement late Tuesday that he expected that Congress “will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless administration” and that his committee would have to take a “hard look” at the officials who are “enabling this cover up.”

“The White House waived these privileges long ago, and the Department seemed open to sharing these materials with us earlier today. The Department’s legal arguments are without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis,” Nadler said.

Trump administration officials in the Justice Department say that the committee “has not articulated any legitimate basis for requesting the law enforcement documents that bear upon more than two dozen criminal cases and investigations, including ongoing matters.” Democrats say that the Justice Department is failing to comply with congressional oversight and “hindered the Committee’s constitutional, oversight, and legislative functions.”

House Democrats and the Justice Department had gone back and forth since last week. Barr bailed on a scheduled House Judiciary Committee hearing that would have examined his handling of the Mueller report because he didn’t want to be questioned by a committee lawyer for an extended period.

Mueller wrote a letter to Barr saying that the attorney general had mischaracterized his investigation’s findings in Barr’s initial summary of the report, which quoted select lines from the 448-page Mueller report out of context. Hours before releasing the redacted version of the report last month, Barr held a news conference in which he put a Trump-friendly spin on the investigation’s findings

Igor Bobic contributed to this report.

This article has been updated with comments from Rep. Jerry Nadler.