House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NJ) said Wednesday that the full House will move “rapidly” towards holding Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt, warning that the U.S. government has entered a “constitutional crisis.”
Nadler made the remarks after his committee voted in favor of recommending Barr be held in contempt for refusing to produce the unredacted report of special counsel Robert Mueller and its underlying materials, which the committee had subpoenaed.
“We’ve talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis, we are now in it,” Nadler said, before referencing the famous Benjamin Frank quote about United States being a “republic…if you can keep it.”
“Now is the time of testing whether we can keep a republic or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government,” he said.
Nadler did not know whether the full House would vote on the contempt resolution next week, but said it would be on the floor soon.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department slammed Wednesday’s vote on the contempt as “politically motivated and unnecessary” and accused Nadler of “short-circuit[ing]” the negotiations around the request. The Department so far has only offered a select group of lawmakers and a small number of their staff to see a version of the report with some of the redactions removed.
On Wednesday morning, as the mark-up of the committee contempt report started, President Trump asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the materials Dems requested.
“Regrettably, Chairman Nadler’s actions have prematurely terminated the accommodation process and forced the President to assert executive privilege to preserve the status quo,” The Department, in a statement from spokesperson Kerri Kupec, said. “No one, including Chairman Nadler and his Committee, will force the Department of Justice to break the law.”
Republicans at the hearing zeroed in on the fact that some of the redactions have to do with grand jury materials. Under federal law, grand jury materials are required to remain confidential, but they can be disclosed with a court’s permission.
Democrats have called on the Justice Department to seek that order, a request Barr has so far declined. In his remarks after the mark-up, Nadler said House Democrats will ask a court to release them without the Justice Department.