An increasingly angry and defiant Donald Trump ratcheted up his battle of will with Congressional Democrats by asserting executive privilege so as to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report and underlying documents from subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee.
The president’s move came after the Justice Department, late Tuesday night, requested that the House Judiciary Committee postpone a scheduled vote on to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to provide the Mueller files to the panel. The Justice Department warned that if the committee did not postpone the vote, the attorney general would recommend that Trump claim executive privilege over the materials. Now, the White House made good on that threat, doing just that.
“The Attorney General has been transparent and accommodating throughout this process, including by releasing the no-collusion, no-conspiracy, no-obstruction Mueller Report to the public and offering to testify before the Committee. These attempts to work with the Committee have been flatly rejected. They didn’t like the results of the report, and now they want a redo,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement to the press.
“Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.” Sanders continued.
Negotiations For Release of Unredacted Report Terminated
In a letter to Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, echoed Sanders’ statement.
“We are disappointed that you have rejected the Department of Justice’s request to delay the vote of the Committee on the Judiciary on a contempt finding against the Attorney General this morning,” Boyd wrote, adding that the committee has “terminated our ongoing negotiations and abandoned the accommodation process” related to the subpoena.
“Unfortunately, rather than allowing negotiations to continue, you scheduled an unnecessary contempt vote, which you refused to postpone to allow additional time for compromise,” Boyd wrote Wednesday morning. “Accordingly, this is to advise you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials. As I indicated in my letter to you last night, this protective assertion of executive privilege ensures the President’s ability to make a final decision whether to assert privilege following a full review of these materials.”
Vote On Contempt for Barr
Lawmakers clashed during a contentious hearing about holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the full, unredacted Mueller report to the House Judiciary Committee. Republicans mostly denounced the Democrats’ actions on the committee, and Democrats reiterated their demand that the Trump administration turn over the full report.
Democrats have blasted Barr for weeks over his handling of the special counsel’s report. Barr first released an initial four-page summary of Mueller’s findings, announcing in late March that the special counsel found no evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Mueller was also leading an inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice—a matter on which Mueller did not come to a conclusion.
Late Wednesday afternoon, after an entire day of hearings –
The House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress. The committee’s 24-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate that featured apocalyptic language about the future of American democracy, marked the first time that the House has taken official action to punish a government official or witness, amid a standoff between the legislative and executive branch.
The Justice Department decried it as an unnecessary and overwrought reaction designed to stoke a fight.
If the full House follows the committee’s recommendation, it would be only the second time in American history that the nation’s top law enforcement official is found to be in contempt of Congress. It was not immediately clear when such a vote would occur, and the intervening period could allow Mr. Barr time to negotiate a compromise.