U.S. Attorney General William Barr gestures as he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
House Democrats have scheduled a vote for next week on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for not only refusing to do something that he’s not required to do, but also for failing to perform an illegal act.
The vote, scheduled for June 11, is centered on Barr’s refusal to release a fully unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report, detailing his team’s findings after having conducted a 22-month long, $30 million-plus investigation into possible Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.
Information released to the general public in the report was partially redacted if:
- Revealing it would harm an ongoing matter;
- If it revealed investigative techniques;
- If it revealed private information of third-party individuals; or,
- If it was obtained via grand jury testimony.
The redactions were made jointly by Mueller and the attorney general.
Congressional leaders were permitted to read a cleaner version that only left the grand jury testimony redactions intact.
Nevertheless, House Democrats subpoenaed a full, unredacted version of the report, along with any evidence that supported it. Barr’s refusal to comply formed the basis of next week’s vote, which will also target former White House counsel Don McGahn.
“The Attorney General can’t ignore a legal subpoena and get away with it,” tweeted Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
However, Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibits prosecutors from releasing grand jury testimony. A divided Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that principle earlier this year in McKeever vs. Barr, an unrelated lawsuit.
Reporting on the case and its implications to the release of the Mueller report, Andrew McCarthy predicted that, “Democrats will complain long and loud about this, but I don’t see how Barr can be reasonably faulted for following the law.”
In addition, Harvard Law Professor and Newsmax contributor Alan Dershowitz argued that Barr was under no obligation to release any part of the report to Congress at all.
“I think, even if Barr were hypothetically to refuse to issue anything, there would be no legal basis for a court to compel him to do that,” Dershowitz said during a Fox News interview in early April.
“This rush to release is understandable,” Dershowitz added. “The American public wants to see this report. They’re curious. But the law has to be complied with, and the law generally protects subjects of investigations who haven’t been indicted.”
And for following the law, Congressional Democrats want to hold him in contempt.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, was bowled over by this development.
“We’re really doing this? We’re all supposed to just ignore the fact that Barr is bound by federal law to protect grand jury information? Are we pretending there might be some bombshell hidden in there?” he asked. “This is dishonest politics meant to discredit Barr.”
And what if Barr had released the information in clear violation of federal law? Would House Democrats go after him for that?
In the spirit of compromise, the Justice Department suggested that Congress narrow the scope of its subpoenas and suspend next week’s contempt vote. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., rejected that outright.
“The fact of the matter is as you have pointed out and your reporters have pointed out, that offer is a very limited offer,” Hoyer told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday. “Clearly, the whole House voted to get the un-redacted copy of the Mueller report, which we think is absolutely essential for us and for the American people to have the opportunity to make a decision based upon the facts that are disclosed.”
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, incidentally, were drafted by Congress. If Congress wants Barr to release information he’s legally prohibited from disclosing, Congress has the power to change the rule.
Instead, according to Crenshaw, House Democrats would rather discredit Barr.
Not all Democrats were on board with holding the attorney general in contempt, however. House Financial Services Chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., came up with what she thought was a better solution.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Contempt? What’s the punishment? … I’m for impeachment y’all. Period!” Waters said in response to a question about holding Barr in contempt.
In other words, who needs evidence? Let’s just impeach and proceed right to the penalty phase.
And they call Republicans nutty.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He’s also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. To read more of his reports – Click Here.