Nadler delivers ultimatum to Barr before holding AG in contempt – POLITICO

Jerrold Nadler

As part of his new offer, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is asking the Justice Department to allow more members of Congress to immediately view a less redacted version of Robert Mueller’s report. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images


Legal

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is making what he calls a final “counter offer” to Attorney General William Barr’s refusal to grant immediate access to the underlying evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

In a new letter to Barr on Friday, Nadler (D-N.Y.) gave the Justice Department until 9 a.m. Monday to comply with his adjusted request before moving forward with an effort to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a committee subpoena demanding Mueller’s full unredacted report and underlying documents by May 1.

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“The committee is prepared to make every realistic effort to reach an accommodation with the department,” Nadler wrote. “But if the department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse.”

Democrats have said they’re trying to show that they’re engaging in good-faith negotiations with Barr before rushing to take punitive actions — like holding him in contempt or fighting Barr in court.

Nadler’s new offer comes as the Justice Department said earlier this week it would not comply with Nadler’s subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and all of the underlying evidence and grand jury information. In a letter to Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said Congress is not entitled to the information, adding that the request is “not legitimate oversight.”

As part of his new offer, Nadler is asking the Justice Department to allow more members of Congress to immediately view a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report. The chairman is not backing off his demand that Barr join Congress to seek a court order granting lawmakers access to grand-jury material that Barr has already blocked from public view, citing statutes prohibiting him from disclosing such information.

Nadler also said he’s willing to prioritize Mueller’s underlying evidence in order to streamline its production to Congress, with a focus on materials that were specifically mentioned in the redacted version of the report.

“[T]he department has offered no reason whatsoever for failing to produce the evidence underlying the report, except for a complaint that there is too much of it and a vague assertion about the sensitivity of law enforcement files,” Nadler wrote.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday said Nadler’s Monday deadline makes Democrats “look ridiculous and silly.” Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Nadler was placing “absurd demands” on the Justice Department.

“His accusations do not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this situation,” Collins said, borrowing Mueller’s exact words from a letter the special counsel wrote to Barr last month expressing concerns about the attorney general’s handling of the probe.

“Democrats continue to deliver inaccurate statements and abusive politics, while demanding the attorney general either break the law or face contempt charges,” Collins said. “Their chief complaint against the attorney general is his upholding the rule of law when they wish him to disregard it.”

The committee is conducting its own obstruction of justice investigation into President Donald Trump, and Democrats have demanded that they have access to all of Mueller’s evidence so they could use it for their own probe. Mueller outlined evidence in his report that Trump obstructed justice, but he ultimately decided not to charge the president with a crime, citing in part a long-standing Justice Department stating that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

“As the Mueller report makes clear, this need is amplified where, as here, department policy prohibits the indictment of a sitting president and instead relies upon Congress to evaluate whether constitutional remedies are appropriate,” Nadler wrote, likely referencing impeachment.

The Justice Department has already offered for a select number of lawmakers and staffers to view a less redacted version of Mueller’s report in a secure setting. Nadler has objected to those restrictions, and Democrats have yet to view the less redacted version.

Nadler’s new offer also comes amid escalating tensions between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats over House committees’ various investigations targeting the president and his administration.

On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee held an empty-chair hearing on Barr’s handling of the Mueller report after the attorney general backed out of the testimony amid a disagreement with the panel over its insistence that committee lawyers be allowed to question Barr. Nadler has threatened to issue a subpoena to compel Barr’s attendance at a future hearing.

Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and challenged many of Mueller’s legal theories. Democrats said Barr was trying to spin the contents of the report in the most favorable light possible for the president.

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