by Countable | 5.8.19
The House Judiciary Committee Democrats voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt, setting up potential action on the House floor in the near future.
The contempt resolution, authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), takes issue with Attorney General William Barr’s failure to comply with a congressional subpoena requesting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full, unredacted report. It was advanced on a party-line vote of 24-16 in which Democrats voted in favor and Republicans in opposition after a more than five hour hearing.
The Dept. of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday asked the committee to cancel its vote on the contempt resolution and suspend enforcement of the subpoena in exchange for allowing lawmakers access to a version of the report with only grand jury information redacted and letting them take notes in the secure viewing room. When the Judiciary Committee forged ahead with the contempt markup hearing, the Trump administration exercised executive privilege over the subpoenaed materials on Wednesday morning.
Contempt is used by the House and Senate to respond to actions viewed as obstructing the legislative and oversight process by forcing compliance, punishing the subject of contempt (aka the contemnor), or removing the obstruction. Congressional contempt power can be exercised in three ways according to the Congressional Research Service:
There are several obstacles to congressional subpoena enforcement against executive branch officials through the use of criminal contempt or civil enforcement. In terms of criminal contempt, based on past practice the DOJ doesn’t prosecute contempt if executive privilege is invoked. That was the case for several contempt citations involving executive branch officials approved by the House and sent to the DOJ in recent decades:
Additionally, while it’s possible to enforce a congressional subpoena through civil action it can take significant time to obtain a final, enforceable ruling due to the appeals process.
The contempt resolution, which was amended to drop the demand for an unredacted version of the Mueller report to accommodate legally required redactions of grand jury material, may be brought up for a vote on the House floor in the near future.
When asked by reporters when the contempt resolution could reach the floor, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “We haven’t decided that.” Whether it does could depend on whether negotiations with the Trump administration about waiving its use of executive privilege for redacted portions of the Mueller report bear fruit.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / TriggerPhoto)
Written by Countable