As the inter-branch subpoena standoff continues, the Department of Justice said that it is willing to resume negotiations with House Democrats, but only if the contempt proceedings against the attorney general are halted and reversed.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a letter Tuesday that a recent message from the committee "appears to recognize" that the subpoena demanding the release of the unredacted Mueller report "is unworkably overbroad and offers — for the first time — to narrow the Subpoena's scope to cover a much more limited set of documents."
For weeks, the DOJ has been in locked in a standoff with the House majority over Democrats' demands for the release of a completely unredacted Mueller report, along with the underlying evidence. The Justice Department has responded to these demands by saying that the initial subpoena would have required the attorney general to release secret grand jury information protected by federal legal rules.
Weeks ago, the DOJ offered to allow committee members to come view a less-redacted version of the report — sans approximately "six lines" of protected information, according to one Republican — in a secure location at the department. To date, no congressional Democrats have accepted that offer.
Attempts to reach a compromise came to an abrupt stop early last month when committee Democrats voted to move forward with contempt proceedings against Barr. The administration responded to the contempt move — which it called "Chairman Nadler's blatant abuse of power" — by invoking executive privilege over the subpoenaed materials.
However, the DOJ added that it's willing to resume those accommodation talks "provided that the Committee takes reasonable steps to restore the status quo ante by mooting its May 8 vote and removing any threat of an imminent vote by the House of Representatives to hold the Attorney General in contempt."
Democratic House leadership set a full House contempt vote against Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn for June 11. Boyd's letter says "the Department is disappointed by news" but that such a vote wouldn't even make much sense, given the current situation.
"Indeed, given the Committee's offer to narrow the scope of its Subpoena," Boyd concludes, "it would hardly make sense for the full House of Representatives to act upon the Committee's prior recommendation to hold the Attorney General in contempt for not complying with a Subpoena that even the Committee now appears to acknowledge was overbroad."