WASHINGTON (ABC News) — The House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jerry Nadler, voted along party lines Wednesday to advance a resolution to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report, escalating tensions between Democrats and the White House.
As lawmakers debated the move on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over Mueller’s findings, complicating Democrats’ plans to obtain documents and information to review the special counsel’s conclusions.
The resolution, passed after more than six hours of sharp debate, could receive a vote on the House floor in the coming weeks.
“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 Sanders said in a statement.
The resolution would refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia, a Trump appointee in the Justice Department unlikely to pursue the matter. It would also pave the way for Democrats to seek enforcement of their subpoena in civil court, which could lead to a prolonged legal fight.
“If allowed to go unchecked, this obstruction means the end of congressional oversight. No person—and certainly not the top law enforcement officer in the country—can be permitted to flout the will of Congress and to defy a valid subpoena,” Nadler said as the committee meeting began.
‘What’s really at stake here is Congress’s ability to do its job for the American people,” he said.
Republicans on Wednesday argued that providing access to the full report, including sensitive grand jury information, would break the law.
They accused Democrats of rushing to condemn Barr in an effort to discredit the attorney general as he begins a review of the origins of the Russia investigation supported by the president and some Republicans.