WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for non-compliance of a subpoena to provide the committee with an un-redacted version of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The resolution passed 24-16.
All Democrats voted yes. All Republicans voted no.
“We are now in a constitutional crisis,” committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) declared in a news conference shortly after the vote.
“We cannot flinch and we will not flinch.”
The Department of Justice released a redacted version of the report on April 18. A day later, Nadler issued a subpoena for the full report.
Since that time DoJ has failed to meet several deadlines to turn over the report.
The committee subpoenaed several former administration officials on April 22, including former White House Counsel Don McGahn II.
McGahn’s attorneys notified the committee on Tuesday afternoon that their client would not comply with the subpoena, which seeks documents related to Mueller’s investigation.
Earlier that day, the White House instructed McGahn not to comply with the subpoena.
Nadler wrote McGahn’s attorneys on Tuesday evening. He said the committee would consider holding McGahn in contempt if he does not comply with the subpoena.
Wednesday morning President Donald Trump invoked executive privilege to protect the un-redacted report, Nadler said at the hearing.
In a statement released Wednesday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders accused Nadler of trying to distract from the president’s “historically successful agenda and booming economy.” She said that Nadler’s “blatant abuse of power” left the president no other option and that Trump was acting at the request of Barr by exerting executive privilege.
“Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands,” Sanders said.
The resolution the House Judiciary Committee passed Wednesday afternoon must be approved by the full House in order for a contempt citation to be issued. The citation would allow the committee to go to court to sue for the requested documents.
Mueller said in his report that he did not find any evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Mueller did not make a determination as to whether obstruction of justice had occurred.
Republicans say the absence of evidence of collusion means the Russia probe should be put to bed.
But Democrats say more investigation is needed into whether Trump may have obstructed justice. They have asked Mueller to testify on May 15.
Last week Barr backed out of a scheduled hearing before the committee due to a dispute with Nadler over whether attorneys for the committee would be allowed to pose questions. Such a practice is generally reserved for impeachment hearings.
Today’s resolution does not address Barr’s no-show.