The White House has decided to exert “executive privilege” over the unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian collusion after House Democrats moved forward with a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.
The Department of Justice released a statement late Tuesday night, NBC News reports, warning House Democrats not to hold AG Barr in contempt, ending any possibility of the two parties — the DOJ and the House Judiciary Committee — working out a deal for Barr to testify. The DOJ told Dems, led by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), that it would most certainly recommend that the White House exert executive privilege over the unredacted report if Democrats didn’t back down.
“In a letter sent Tuesday night to committee chairman [Nadler] … Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd called the panel’s continued demands for materials “unreasonable” and urged them to delay Wednesday’s scheduled vote to initiate the contempt process,” according to NBC.
“If the committee decides to proceed in spite of this request, however, the Attorney General will advise the President to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,” Boyd wrote, making clear the DOJ was not interested in partisan games.
Nadler, in return, called the letter “dangerous,” and insisted on holding the contempt vote Wednesday morning — a position echoed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Wednesday morning, the pair made good on their promise, and the House Judiciary Committee voted to place Barr in contempt of Congress. The DOJ, clearly not kidding about its proposed response, issued a statement shortly thereafter, announcing that President Donald Trump had exerted executive privilege over the unredacted Mueller report, accompanying evidence, and “all subpoenaed materials” associated with the Mueller investigation.
BREAKING: US Justice Dept. says President Trump "has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials" of the Mueller report that have been requested by congressional cmte. https://t.co/kdrUxk2XiK pic.twitter.com/3ENgaSYhJm
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 8, 2019
The White House added that, given the “blatant abuse of power” by Nadler and others, the president had “no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.”
There is no way to proceed now, for House Democrats, other than by engaging in a legal battle against the Department of Justice to obtain copies of the unredacted report. The development also means that any House Dems interested in simply viewing the report — a possibility previously left open by the Justice Department, will have to wait an unknown length of time before getting that opportunity again.
Nadler told a press conference Wednesday that it was the DOJ and the White House being unfair. After all, the Democrats had offered to allow Barr to testify, though he’d be subject to questioning by handpicked legal aides — not by members of the House Judiciary Committee — something Barr and the DOJ noted, early on, was deal-breaker.
“In response to our latest good-faith offer, the Department abruptly announced that if we move forward today, it would ask President Trump to invoke what it refers to as a protective assertion of executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena. Just minutes ago, it took that dramatic step,” Nadler said. “Let me be clear: The information we are requesting is entirely within our legal rights to receive and is no different from what has been provided to Congress on numerous occasions, going back nearly a century.”
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) chastised his Democratic colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee, blaming them for jumping the gun on contempt and closing off any opportunity for the American public to view the unredacted report.
“I ask you to recognize that craven and insincere politics yield anemic dividends for Americans who have asked us to legislate,” Collins said. “As I have told you on multiple occasions and proved at last week’s pharmaceuticals markup, I stand ready to work with you to promote solutions. I will not, though, become a bystander as you assail the attorney general and this committee. Our democracy deserves better.”
The contempt resolution will now proceed to the full House, but the outcome of that vote does not matter. This is now a legal battle between House Dems and the president.
Author: Emily Zanotti