The White House responded to efforts by House Democrats to obtain further information on special counsel Robert Mueller's report with an assertion of executive privilege Monday morning.
"The American people see through Chairman [Jerry] Nadler's desperate ploy to distract from the President's historically successful agenda and our booming economy," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler's unlawful and reckless demands."
After talks between House Judiciary Committee Democrats and the Department of Justice failed yet again to strike a disclosure deal on Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) warning that the department would ask the White House to invoke executive privilege if the committee moved forward with contempt of Congress proceedings against the attorney general.
"Faced with Chairman Nadler's blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General's request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege," Sanders' statement continued, after citing the DOJ's multiple efforts to work with the Judiciary Committee. "It is sad that Chairman Nadler is only interested in pandering to the press and pleasing his radical left constituency."
Nadler responded Wednesday during the Judiciary Committee's contempt resolution hearing by accusing the administration of "misapplying the doctrine of executive privilege" and saying that "this decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's defiance of Congress' constitutionally mandated duties" to conduct oversight on the Executive Branch.
Barr and congressional Republicans have objected to the releasing the unredacted report and the underlying evidence because they contain confidential grand jury information or other sensitive information. A DOJ statement from April explained that "every page" of the confidential report given to Barr on March 22, 2019, was marked "'May Contain Material Protected Under Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)" — a law that protects confidential grand jury information — and therefore could not be publicly released."
The applicable regulations regarding grand jury secrecy are contained in Title III of the Federal Rules for Criminal Procedure.
So far, the DOJ has allowed a dozen lawmakers to view a less redacted version of the report which conceals only legally protected grand jury information. Only two on that list — Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Judiciary Ranking Member Doug Collings (R-Ga.) — took advantage of the opportunity prior to Barr's recent Senate testimony last week.
More recently, department officials have reiterated the original invitation to Nadler to view the less-redacted version.
During Wednesday morning's markup, committee member and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Johnson (R-La.) noted that "only six lines" of the report dealing with obstruction are actually still redacted in the version available for Nadler to read at the DOJ.
If the full House of Representatives eventually finds Barr to be in contempt of Congress, resolution passes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can then refer Barr for prosecution. Contempt of Congress is a federal offense that carries a maximum sentence of a $100,000 fine and/or one year in prison.UPDATE:
The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress by a vote of 24-16 along party lines.
Department of Justice Spokeswoman Kerri Kupec responded to the contempt vote with a lengthy statement:
"The accommodation process between co-equal branches of government is supposed to be a two-way street. Unfortunately, the only side who has made accommodations is the Attorney General, who made extraordinary efforts to provide Congress and the public with information about the Special Counsel's work. The Attorney General could not comply with the House Judiciary Committee's subpoena without violating the law, court rules, and court orders, and without threatening the independence of the Department's prosecutorial functions. Despite this, the Department of Justice engaged with the Committee in good faith in an effort to accommodate its stated interest in these materials. Unfortunately, rather than allowing negotiations to continue, Chairman Nadler short-circuited these efforts by proceeding with a politically motivated and unnecessary contempt vote, which he refused to postpone to allow additional time to explore discussion and compromise. It is deeply disappointing that elected representatives of the American people have chosen to engage in such inappropriate political theatrics. Regrettably, Chairman Nadler's actions have prematurely terminated the accommodation process and forced the President to assert executive privilege to preserve the status quo. No one, including Chairman Nadler and his Committee, will force the Department of Justice to break the law."