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House Judiciary Committee plans contempt hearing for Barr

Critics accuse Barr of protecting Trump

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a Wednesday meeting to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the full, unredacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller. 

The text of a contempt resolution prepared by the committee reads, "Although the Committee has attempted to engage in accommodations with Attorney General Barr for several months, it can no longer afford to delay, and must resort to contempt proceedings." 

Barr missed a deadline the committee's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, set last week to hand over the full report, and failed to appear for a hearing last week focused on Mueller's report. Nadler issued one final demand that the Justice Department make more of the report available to Congress by allowing all members and relevant staff to view a less-redacted version of the report. Barr missed Nadler's 9 a.m. Monday deadline to respond. 

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd responded to the committee in a letter Monday afternoon, inviting Judiciary Committee staff members to come to Justice Department on Wednesday – the same day the contempt vote is scheduled – to discuss a possible accommodation.

Boyd wrote that Justice Department officials "were disappointed that the Committee took initial steps this morning toward moving forward with the contempt process," but offered to negotiate on two of Nadler's most recent demands: allowing more members of Congress to view a less-redacted version of the report and prioritizing the review and possible disclosure of certain materials cited in the full Mueller report. He did not say anything about Nadler's third demand: that the Justice Department work with Congress to seek a court order providing access to grand jury material contained in the report.

On Monday evening, the committee announced that House Judiciary Committee staff would be meeting with the Justice Department Tuesday to talk about further accommodations, rather than Wednesday, the day the Justice Department had originally proposed. Still, the threat of a contempt vote remains.

Previously, Barr made a less-redacted version of the report available to congressional leadership and the House and Senate judiciary and intelligence committees, an offer that the Democrats rejected. 

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will instruct House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to "take all appropriate action to enforce the subpoena," which would include certifying the report to the judiciary committee to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. 

If Barr makes a good faith effort to provide the committee with more of the report, the contempt hearing could be postponed. 

Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, suggested Nadler is taking this too far. 

"Chairman Nadler knows full subpoena compliance requires Attorney General Barr to break the law," Collins said in a statement. "Yet, instead of introducing legislation allowing the attorney general to provide Congress grand jury material, Democrats move to hold him in contempt. They know the Justice Department is working to negotiate even as they pursue contempt charges, making their move today illogical and disingenuous. Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general when their anger actually lies with the president and the special counsel, who found neither conspiracy nor obstruction."

On Thursday, Pelosi claimed Barr had committed a "crime" with his statements to Congress. Barr claimed in early April that he didn't know if Mueller agreed with his conclusions as listed in a four-page summary, but Mueller had written a letter to bar expressing his concern over the lack of context in Barr's conclusions. 

"He lied to Congress," Pelosi said last week. "And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States and not the attorney general," Pelosi said. "Being the attorney general does not give you a bath to go say whatever you want, and that is the fact, because you are the attorney general."

She left it up to the committee chairmen to decide how to respond to members of the administration who are refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas. 

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