‘Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general…’
(AFP) Democrats said Monday they will launch contempt proceedings Wednesday against Attorney General Bill Barr for failing to meet a deadline to provide the full, unredacted special counsel’s report on Russian election interference.
The move, following multiple subpoenas issued against Barr to deliver the documents, intensifies the showdown between President Donald Trump and the Democrats who control the House of Representatives and are seeking to hold him to account for what they say was improper conduct.
“The attorney general’s failure to comply with our subpoena, after extensive accommodation efforts, leaves us no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings in order to enforce the subpoena and access the full, unredacted report,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement, after a missed 9:00 am (1300 GMT) deadline.
Barr had declared Trump fully cleared of conspiracy with Russia and obstruction of justice shortly after special counsel Robert Mueller presented his 448-page report to the Justice Department.
But Democrats have protested that Barr has sought to protect the president by refusing to present the full report or underlying evidence to Congress.
In a 27-page contempt report, Nadler said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is empowered to “take all appropriate action to enforce the subpoena.”
Such actions may include fines against the attorney general or even arrest, although such action is unlikely.
Congress is “the only body able to hold the president to account for improper conduct in our tripartite system, and urgently requires the subpoenaed material to determine whether and how to proceed with its constitutional duty to provide checks and balances on the President and Executive Branch,” Nadler wrote.
“Access to these materials is essential to the committee’s ability to effectively investigate possible misconduct, and consider appropriate legislative, oversight, or other constitutionally warranted responses.”
The statement is clear reference to the potential for the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump if the leadership believes they are warranted.
Pelosi has warned against moving ahead with impeachment, suggesting it could lead to a political backlash.
But Barr’s refusal to provide the complete report to Congress, and the report’s setting forth of 10 instances in which Trump sought to thwart the investigation — although Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether crimes were committed — has galvanized support among some Democrats to push for Trump’s ouster.
The Judiciary panel’s top Republican, Doug Collins, signalled that the Justice Department was still negotiating over Nadler’s request in the subpoena, and that the contempt move is “illogical and disingenuous.”
“Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general when their anger actually lies with the president and the special counsel, who found neither conspiracy nor obstruction,” Collins said.
© Agence France-Presse