This legal battle comes after the Special Counsel presented the investigation to top U.S. law enforcement officer on March 22.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved on Wednesday a measure to hold United States Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to hand over a full unredacted copy of the Mueller report on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election favoring Donald Trump.
“We are now in a constitutional crisis,” the committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler, told reporters after the panel voted 24-16, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. This decision came hours after Trump invoked executive privilege to block the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report.
Executive privilege is a legal measure rarely invoked by U.S. presidents to keep other branches of government from getting access to certain internal executive branch information. “Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the attorney general’s request, the president has no other option,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders argued.
This legal battle comes as the Special Counsel presented on March 22 the investigation to the top U.S. law enforcement officer, after nearly two years. An abridged version was immediately released stating that the inquiry did not find that any U.S. or Trump campaign officials knowingly conspired with Moscow.
Since then the Democratic establishment has been pressing for Barr to release the full version. On April 18, the Attorney General released a larger 448-page redacted version of the report, yet missed two deadlines to turn over the complete requested material after Nadler subpoenaed it last month.
The #MuellerReport is no ordinary document—it details significant misconduct involving @POTUS, including his campaign’s willingness and eagerness to accept help from a hostile foreign gov't & numerous misstatements, if not outright lies, concerning those acts. #LawlessPresident https://t.co/CFF0lh2R5u— Alcee L. Hastings (@RepHastingsFL) May 8, 2019
Nadler said lawmakers needed the material to determine whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to deter Mueller’s inquiry, as the second part of the report address Trump’s actions regarding this investigation, which could be considered an obstruction of justice.
Mueller left open the possibility that Trump had obstructed justice in his response to the Russia probe, yet Barr concluded that the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction of justice offense,” the summary said. The DOJ has a policy that sitting presidents cannot face criminal charges.
However, as both Mueller and Barr said, “This report does not conclude that the president committed a crime it also does no exonerate him.” Trump has denied many times collusion or obstruction, while Russia has denied election interference.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he had issued a subpoena to Barr for documents related to the Mueller report after the Justice Department responded to the panel’s requests “with silence or outright defiance.” The chairman has set a new deadline of May 15 for Barr to produce the materials.