House Democrats are tightening the constitutional noose on Attorney General William P. Barr, edging closer to holding him in contempt of Congress.
They agreed Monday to vote on the issue this week in their efforts to require him to testify before the Judiciary Committee or be held in contempt for refusing to obey a congressional subpoena. Barr was asked to turn over a full, unredacted copy of the report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to determine if President Trump had committed a crime in the Russian election-interference scandal.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the panel has “attempted to engage in accommodations with ... Barr for several months,” adding “it can no longer afford to delay, and must resort to contempt proceedings.”
The Democrats’ contempt resolution says that without the full and unredacted evidence in the Mueller report, “the committee is unable to fully perform its responsibility to protect the impending 2020 elections -- and thus our democracy itself — from a recurrence of Russian interference.”
The resolution goes on to say that the report is needed to decide “whether to approve articles of impeachment with respect to the president or any other administration official, as well as the consideration of other steps such as censure or issuing criminal, civil or administrative referrals.”
But Barr’s refusal to testify before the committee, with the White House claiming executive privilege, is only one part of the battle between Congress and Trump.
The Democrats are talking about the possibility of yet another contempt citation for Donald McGahn, Trump’s former White House counsel, according to a Washington Post report Tuesday.
McGahn, a key figure in Mueller’s findings that deal with obstruction of justice, was supposed to provide the committee with “over 36 types of documents” on Tuesday that the panel has subpoenaed.
A House Democrat said, “talks between McGahn and Judiciary officials are ongoing, and investigators remain hopeful that he will comply,” the Post reported Tuesday.
”Any relevant executive privilege (claim) was waived long ago when McGhan went and spent more than 30 hours being interviewed by the special counsel, so it’s very hard to imagine that you can put the toothpaste back in the tube,” Rep. Jamie B. Raskin, D-Md., a House Judiciary Committee member, told the Post.
Trump insists that he has done nothing illegal, tweeting Monday: “No High Crimes & Misdemeanors, No Collusion, No Conspiracy, No Obstruction. ALL THE CRIMES ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE.”
But that’s not what more than 450 former federal prosecutors said, Republicans and Democrats, in signing a statement saying Mueller’s findings would have brought obstruction charges against Trump, if he were not the president.
”Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting president, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” the former federal prosecutors wrote.
Their signatures were collected by a nonprofit group called “Protect Democracy,” which includes a large number of former Justice Department prosecutors.
”We strongly believe that Americans deserve to hear from the men and women who spent their careers weighing evidence ... about whether it was sufficient to justify prosecution, so we agreed to send out a call for signatories,” said Justin Vail, an attorney for the group.
”The response was overwhelming,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a surprising speech Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky declared that the case against Trump should be “closed” and that Democrats should accept Mueller’s findings and bring their investigation to a halt.
”For two years, the Democratic Party held out hope that the legal system would undo their loss in 2016. They refused to make peace with the American people’s choice. But the American people elected this president,” he said.
It is unlikely that House Democrats are going to end their impeachment investigation, but McConnell’s speech suggests their efforts are going nowhere in the Senate.
Donald Lambro has been covering Washington politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.