House Judiciary Committee votes to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress after marathon hearing
- The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over an unredacted copy of Robert Mueller's final report on Russian interference.
- Barr provided a partially redacted copy to the public and made multiple attempts to allow certain Democrats to view the report at the Justice Department, but they refused.
- If the contempt charges advance, Barr could face lofty fines or even jail time.
- The last attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress was Eric Holder in 2012 during the Obama administration, but the charges were ultimately tossed out.
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WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, a severe penalty for refusing to comply with requests to hand over an unredacted copy of the special counsel Robert Mueller's final report in the Russia investigation and its underlying evidence.The vote fell along party lines at 24 to 16, as Democrats move forward with a multitude of sprawling inquiries into President Donald Trump and his administration.Advertisement
Contempt of Congress is a serious charge, which can later result in a criminal referral to a US attorney. Though rare, if sought all the way through, maximum penalties can include either a $100,000 fine or one year in jail.
Democrats took the first formal step toward holding Barr in contempt of Congress on Monday. On Tuesday, the Justice Department fired back by threatening to advise President Donald Trump to invoke executive privilege over Mueller's report in light of Democrats' actions.House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler responded by describing the Justice Department's threat as "without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis."
After Mueller turned in his final report in the Russia probe to Barr in March, the attorney general moved to release a summary of his "principal conclusions" of Mueller's findings to Congress and the public before making the report available. In the summary, Barr said Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to bring a conspiracy charge against Trump or anyone on his campaign.Advertisement
But when the Justice Department finally released a redacted version of the report - which featured a roadmap of evidence against Trump and 11 potential instances of obstruction of justice - Barr drew immediate backlash for what Democrats claimed was an effort to shield the president by watering down Mueller's findings ahead of their release.Advertisement
After testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the letters and his oversight of the Russia probe, the Justice Department announced Barr would not appear before the House Judiciary Committee the next day.
The committee launched formal proceedings to hold him in contempt after he missed Monday's deadline to turn over the unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence.Read more: Over 370 former federal prosecutors say they would have charged Trump with obstruction if he wasn't presidentAdvertisement
The last time Congress voted to hold an attorney general in contempt was in 2012, when Republicans were in the majority. Eric Holder, the then-Attorney General for the Barack Obama administration, had repeatedly refused to hand over documents pertaining to the "Fast and Furious" ATF gun walking scandal.Holder's contempt vote passed the House in a bipartisan fashion, with a handful of Democrats joining Republicans to punish the top law enforcement officer at the time. Ultimately, a federal judge tossed out the charges and Holder avoided severe penalties.Other attempts to oust officials for not complying with Congress have taken different routes. During the Obama administration, a small contingent of Republicans repeatedly tried to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. They eventually failed and Koskinen finished his term several months into the Trump presidency.Advertisement
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