In yet another dramatic escalation in the ongoing battle between House Democrats and the Trump administration, the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday subpoenaed the Justice Department for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full, unredacted report and the underlying evidence.
The subpoena comes hours after the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for not providing the same materials. Republicans have maintained that the report contains sensitive grand jury materials that must be redacted by law, at least for now.
The intelligence committee subpoena ostensibly requires Barr to produce the documents by May 15.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the top Republican on the committee, California Rep. Devin Nunes, have asked for the unredacted Mueller report for several weeks.
Schiff said in a statement that the Justice Department “has repeatedly failed to respond, refused to schedule any testimony, and provided no documents responsive to our legitimate and duly authorized oversight activities.”
“As both the special counsel and the Department of Justice have recognized, the Congress has a vital constitutional role in evaluating misconduct by the executive branch, including the president, and to assess and refine laws that address the ‘sweeping and systematic’ invasion of our democracy by Russia,” Schiff said. “We therefore need these materials in order to do our job.
“The department’s stonewalling is simply unacceptable.”
Schiff concluded: “The department repeatedly pays lip service to the importance of a meaningful accommodation process, but it has only responded to our efforts with silence or outright defiance. Today, we have no choice but to issue a subpoena to compel their compliance. If the department continues to ignore or rejects our requests, we will enforce our request in Congress and, if necessary, the courts.”
Meanwhile, New York Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who heads the House Judiciary Committee, said the full House will soon vote on the panel’s recommendation to hold Barr in contempt.
The committee’s 24-16 vote on contempt for Barr was along party lines and came after hours of debate. Ahead of voting, the White House invoked executive privilege, claiming the right to block lawmakers from seeing the full document.
Nadler called the executive privilege claim an “assertion of tyrannical power by the president” that “cannot stand.”
Nadler additionally characterized the situation as a “constitutional crisis,” although he did not explain what exactly had occurred that would have defeated existing constitutional safeguards and mechanisms. It was also unclear how House Democrats could enforce any contempt vote.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, on the other hand, said it was disappointing that members of Congress “have chosen to engage in such inappropriate political theatrics.”
She added that Barr made “extraordinary efforts” to provide Congress and the public with information about Mueller’s work.
In searing, no-holds-barred remarks ahead of the contempt vote, House Judiciary Committee Republican Jim Jordan charged at Wednesday’s explosive hearing that Democrats were out to “destroy” Barr as a way to derail the Justice Department’s ongoing review of alleged misconduct by the intelligence community.
Jordan, R-Ohio, asserted that Barr was legally required to withhold portions of Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in U.S. politics.
Democrats, Jordan said, effectively put Barr in an unwinnable position: He could either release the full Mueller report in violation of the law and federal procedure, or keep the redactions and face a partisan contempt proceeding.
“Bill Barr is following the law, and what’s his reward?” Jordan asked toward the beginning of a hearing on whether to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. “Democrats are going to hold him in contempt.”
Barr was set to testify before the House panel earlier this month, following his remarks before the Senate, but pulled out. Said to be at issue: Dems’ insistence that committee staff — rather than members of Congress — ask the questions. That brouhaha, Jordan suggested, was a cynical sideshow designed to mask Democrats’ intentions.
“I don’t think today is actually about getting information,” Jordan continued. “I don’t think it’s about getting the unredacted Mueller report. I don’t think last week’s hearing was actually about having staff question the attorney general. I think it’s all about trying to destroy Bill Barr because Democrats are nervous he’s going to get to the bottom of everything. He’s going to find out how and why this investigation started in the first place.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Mike Emanuel, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.