WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, escalating the war between the Trump administration and House Democrats.
The committee voted 24-16 along party lines to approve a resolution recommending that the full U.S. House find Barr in contempt for his refusal to comply with a committee subpoena seeking an unredacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The vote came after a full day of partisan sniping on Capitol Hill and after President Trump asserted executive privilege over the report, further infuriating the House Democratic majority.
“This is not a step we take lightly,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said at the kickoff of the hearing Wednesday morning. He called the attempt to invoke privilege a “clear escalation in the Trump administration’s blanket defiance” of Congress and the latest example of “unprecedented obstruction” by the president and his allies.
Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.) said in a written statement after the vote that the committee had no choice but to recommend finding Barr in contempt.
“We are a nation of laws, and no person is above the law,” he said. “Further, the White House’s declaration that the Administration will not comply with lawful subpoenas issued by Congress is perilous for our nation. We have no choice but to hold the Attorney General in contempt and hold him accountable for his willful violation of the law.”
In the hours leading up to the vote, House Republicans defended Trump and Barr, depicting the Democrats’ push for more details about Mueller’s findings as the latest chapter in an attempt to score political points by bashing the president.
“I think that my Democratic colleagues are still in denial that the president was actually elected,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.).
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said he’s “interested to see the look on the judge’s face” when Democrats present their case, accusing his colleagues of moving prematurely without negotiating with Barr in good faith.
“I can’t help but say if you think this administration, this president is so dangerous, why aren’t you acting on the many resolutions of impeachment you’ve already introduced?” he said.
The contempt resolution will now head to the House floor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Barr should be held in contempt of Congress and “nothing is off the table” regarding whether to impeach him, CNBC reported.