House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) announced Monday he had reached a deal with the Department of Justice that would allow his committee access to special counsel Robert Mueller’s “most important files” related to the obstruction inquiry into President Trump, but Nadler’s announcement was short on details.
As part of the deal, the committee will hold in a “abeyance” any criminal contempt proceedings against Attorney General Bill Barr, Nadler said in a statement. The committee had previously voted to recommend holding Barr in contempt for defying subpoena for Mueller’s unredacted report and its underlying materials.
It’s not clear exactly which documents the Justice Department has agreed to provide to Nadler. Other terms of the deal, including what level of access lawmakers will have to the documents, are still vague.
Criminal contempt was always considered an extreme long shot, given the unlikelihood that the Department would prosecute its own attorney general. Plans are still on for the House to vote on a resolution Tuesday that would allow Nadler to take Barr to court to enforce the subpoena. Nonetheless, Nadler hinted in the statement Monday that for now the committee was giving the Department a chance to comply with the deal before taking the matter to court.
Nadler described the materials at the heart of the deal as “key evidence that the Special Counsel used to assess whether the President and others obstructed justice or were engaged in other misconduct.”
“The Department will share the first of these documents with us later today,” Nadler said. “All members of the Judiciary Committee—Democrats and Republicans alike—will be able to view them. These documents will allow us to perform our constitutional duties and decide how to respond to the allegations laid out against the President by the Special Counsel.”
The agreement was announced just hours before the committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the findings on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
The Justice Department later issued a statement confirming the deal but not offering specifics about what documents it would be providing to Nadler’s committee.
“We are pleased the Committee has agreed to set aside its contempt resolution and is returning to the traditional accommodation process,” DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said. “The Department of Justice remains committed to appropriately accommodating Congress’s legitimate interests related to the Special Counsel’s Investigation and will continue to do so provided the previously voted-upon resolution does not advance.”
The measure that the House is considering Tuesday will also let the committee chairs go directly to court, without a floor vote, to enforce subpoenas that the administration is defying.
Nadler, however, said in the statement that the committee had agreed “to allow the Department time to demonstrate compliance with this agreement.”
“If the Department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything that we need, then there will be no need to take further steps,” Nadler said.
Nadler warned in his statement that if the Department held back “important information,” then the committee “will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies.”
The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) welcomed the deal in a statement, but also suggested that the House vote on Tuesday was not necessary.
“In light of today’s agreement from the Justice Department, it’s logical to ask: Is the chairman prepared to rescind his baseless recommendation to hold the attorney general in contempt, or do House Democrats still plan to green light lawsuits against the attorney general and former White House counsel tomorrow?” Collins said.
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