‘Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general…’
(Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times) WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege Wednesday to block release to Congress of the special counsel’s unredacted report and its underlying evidence in a dramatic escalation of a legal and political clash between House Democrats and the White House.
The White House announced the decision as the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena and refusing to turn over the material.
“This is information we are legally entitled to receive and are constitutionally obligated to review,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who chairs the committee.
As the hearing began, the Justice Department released a letter saying that Trump was making an initial claim of executive privilege, a legal principle that allows the president to keep private conversations with his advisers.
The Mueller report relies heavily on interviews with current and former senior staff in the White House, most notably former chief counsel Donald McGahn.
“Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the attorney general’s request, the president has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
After the House Judiciary Committee approved the contempt resolution, the next step is a full vote of the House.
Democratic leaders said they had no choice but to sanction Barr.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, in response to a question, “Yes, I think that the attorney general should be held in contempt.”
Republicans have argued that it would be improper for Barr to show Congress the redacted material, which includes grand jury evidence that is protected by law, intelligence material that is classified to conceal sources and methods, and sensitive details about ongoing state and federal investigations.
“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,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
Contempt votes are rare but not unprecedented.
In 2012, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. became the first sitting Cabinet member to be voted in contempt by the Republican-controlled House in a battle over access to Justice Department documents on a failed gun-tracking operation known as “Fast and Furious.”
A court battle ensued and lasted for years after Holder left his position.
©2019 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Liberty Headlines editor Paul Chesser contributed.