Hours ahead of the House Judiciary Committee's scheduled vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, the Justice Department late Tuesday threatened to ask President Donald Trump to invoke executive privilege in a last-ditch effort to block the release of the unredacted Mueller report.
"In the face of the committee's threatened contempt vote, the Attorney General will be compelled to request that the president invoke executive privilege with respect to the materials subject to the subpoena," assistant attorney general Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) Tuesday night.
"Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless administration. The committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover up."
—Rep. Jerry Nadler
Nadler—who subpoenaed the full Mueller report and all underlying evidence last month—quickly responded that the DOJ's move is entirely "without credibility" and accused department officials of assisting a "cover up."
"In the middle of good faith negotiations with the Attorney General, the department abruptly announced that it would instead ask President Trump to invoke executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena," said Nadler. "This is, of course, not how executive privilege works. The White House waived these privileges long ago."
"Worse, this kind of obstruction is dangerous," Nadler added. "The department's decision reflects President Trump's blanket defiance of Congress's constitutionally mandated duties. In the coming days, I expect that Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless administration. The committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover up."
Nadler said the Judiciary Committee's vote on a contempt citation for Barr will continue as scheduled, despite the Justice Department's threat.
A mark-up of the citation is expected to begin Wednesday at 10:00am.
BREAKING: Wednesday at 10 a.m. @HouseJudiciary to markup contempt report for AG Barr after DOJ rejects Committee’s counteroffer to view hidden sections of Special Counsel Mueller’s report. https://t.co/BOVLeUoXpi pic.twitter.com/39PyYRLruC
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) May 8, 2019
The Justice Department's attempt to block the release of the unredacted Mueller report comes amid growing pressure on Democratic leaders to take firm and decisive action to hold Barr accountable for repeatedly defying congressional demands.
As Common Dreams reported last Thursday, progressives are calling on Congress to send Barr to jail for refusing to comply with House Democrats' subpoena and failing to testify before Congress about his widely criticized handling of the Mueller report.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote in a column last week that the House has the power to "order its own sergeant-at-arms to arrest the offender, subject him to a trial before the full House, and, if judged to be in contempt, jail that person until he appears before the House and brings whatever documentation the House has subpoenaed."