Contempt move against attorney general in bid to see full report

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Contempt move against attorney general in bid to see full report


Under fire: Attorney General William Barr faces being held in contempt of Congress. Photo: REUTERS
Under fire: Attorney General William Barr faces being held in contempt of Congress. Photo: REUTERS

A US House of Representatives panel was poised to vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for defying a congressional subpoena demanding the full, unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The House judiciary committee was set to vote on a resolution recommending the full House find Mr Barr in contempt of Congress.

Panel staff and Justice Department officials were working behind the scenes in the hope of a deal to avert the proceedings.

The fight over the complete report is just one battle amid a growing struggle between President Donald Trump and the Democrats investigating him, his business interests and administration, which seems to be destined for the courts, presenting political risks for both sides ahead of the 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

The Justice Department had threatened to call on Mr Trump to invoke executive privilege to completely withhold the unredacted report from Congress if House Democrats pushed ahead.

Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler blasted the department for abruptly breaking off “good faith negotiations” to invoke such privilege and said its legal arguments lacked “credibility, merit or legal or factual basis.”

“This kind of obstruction is dangerous,” Mr Nadler said in a statement. He had earlier told reporters the panel would still meet as planned for the vote.

Mr Barr released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his 22-month investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr Nadler subpoenaed the full document and underlying evidence, saying the material was necessary for lawmakers to determine whether Mr Trump obstructed justice by trying to upend the Mueller probe.

Mr Barr missed two subpoena deadlines for turning over the material, the latest on Monday.

“We remain unanimously determined on our side of the aisle to get the unredacted report, as we’ve demanded,” Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on Mr Nadler’s committee, told reporters.

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Representative Doug Collins, the panel’s ranking Republican, criticised Mr Nadler in a statement for rejecting the Justice Department officials’ “accommodations”, and praised “the department’s endurance”.

The redacted Mueller report details extensive contacts between Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign and Moscow, but did not find there was a conspiracy between Moscow and the campaign. The report also describes actions Mr Trump took to try to impede Mr Mueller’s investigation.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration stymied a separate effort by House judiciary committee Democrats to subpoena records from former White House counsel Don McGahn, directing him not to provide the documents sought by the panel.

Mr McGahn was a star witness in Mr Mueller’s Russian investigation, as well as Mr Trump’s subsequent attempts to impede the probe.

Mr Mueller’s report said Mr McGahn told investigators that Mr Trump unsuccessfully pressured him to remove Mr Mueller and then asked him to deny that Mr Trump had done so.

The accounts are based partly on the documents which are being sought by House Democrats.

The Trump administration has refused to cooperate with congressional investigations in at least a half-dozen instances, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s decision on Monday to deny a request for Mr Trump’s tax returns from the Democratic chairman of the House tax committee.

But in a rare show of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans on the House intelligence committee pressed the Justice Department and the FBI, in an April 25 letter, to turn over an unredacted copy of the Mueller report and “all classified and unclassified” evidence relating to foreign spying or counter- intelligence. (© The Washington Post)

Irish Independent

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