House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is threatening to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt if he continues to refuse Congress access to an unredacted version of the Mueller report.
The Justice Department earlier this week rejected a House Judiciary subpoena seeking the entire, unredacted version of the report, which was made public last month, along with all underlying evidence. Nadler on Friday suggested any further delay to the committee’s request would result in legal action.
“The Committee is prepared to make every realistic effort to reach an accommodation with the Department,” Nadler wrote in a letter to Barr on Friday. “But if the Department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the Committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse.”
Nadler said the committee had “repeatedly engaged with” Barr’s staff “in writing, by telephone and in person to discuss a way forward on the subpoena.”
“[T]he Department has repeatedly asserted that Congress’s requests do not serve ‘legitimate’ purposes,” he added. “This is not the Department’s judgment to make. Congress’s constitutional, oversight and legislative interest in investigating misconduct by the President and his associates cannot be disputed.”
Nadler has given Justice officials until 9 a.m. on Monday to respond to his requests, which include allowing members of Congress and select staff to view the redacted portions of the Mueller report in a secure location, and working with Congress to seek a court order permitting the release of grand-jury material material Barr blocked previously. (Politico notes that current statutes prohibit him from disclosing that information without a judge’s approval.)
Nadler warned Barr that if he continues to ignore the subpoena, the committee will move to hold him in contempt.
Republicans, meanwhile, have criticized Nadler for his requests.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R- AZ) claimed in an interview with Fox News on Friday that Nadler already had access to the full, unredacted document.
“He can bring up contempt citation on the documents that he wants … even though he won’t go look at it himself, even though he’s got access to it,” Biggs claimed. “He wants to hold him in contempt on that. Those are both problems for him.”
House Democrats previously rejected an offer from Barr that would only allow select members of Congress to see a slightly less redacted version of the report, which still hid grand jury material. Lawmakers said it was because the parameters surrounding that offer were aggressively strict.
Nadler lashed out at Barr for this on Friday.
“[T]he Department has never explained why it is willing to allow only a small number of Members to view a less redacted version of the report, subject to the condition that they cannot discuss what they have seen with anyone else,” he wrote.
Mueller’s report, which detailed the findings from his nearly two-year long investigation into Russian interference, did not present evidence of criminal coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, however it outlined the extensive ties between the two sides, as well as at least 10 instances involving President Donald Trump that may have constituted obstruction of justice.
Barr has been criticized for misleading Congress and the public on those findings. The Washington Post and New York Times recently reported Mueller had expressed his own concerns about Barr’s messaging in two separate letters back in March, following Barr’s summary of the special counsel’s findings, which he had announced earlier that month.
Barr ultimately appeared to ignore Mueller, pressing forward with his original messaging, which claimed the report vindicated Trump and proved there had been “no collusion” between the president and the Russians. During a House Appropriations Committee hearing on April 9, he told members he was not aware of any frustrations from Mueller’s team about his portrayal of the special counsel’s findings.
Democrats have since called for Barr’s resignation. Some, including former San Antonio mayor and Obama-era Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who is running for president, have said Barr should face impeachment proceedings for lying to Congress about the report, and for covering up Mueller’s misgivings when testifying before lawmakers in April.