The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it asked President Trump to assert executive privilege over the full, unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence, making good on an earlier threat that the DOJ would do so if House Democrats held the attorney general in contempt.
In a statement, the White House pinned the decision on House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler’s “blatant abuse of power.”
“The American people see through Chairman Nadler’s desperate ploy to distract from the President’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy. Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, just as the House Judiciary Committee met to take the contempt vote.
Statement on Executive Privilege pic.twitter.com/6ujCZDnMC0
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) May 8, 2019
The Justice Department piled on the Nadler blame game in a letter to the chairman sent right as the hearing commenced.
“Regrettably, you have made this assertion necessary by your insistence upon scheduling a premature contempt vote,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote.
Nadler started the committee hearing Wednesday arguing that he doesn’t take a contempt vote “lightly” and offered to continue to “consider any reasonable offer made by the department even after today’s vote.”
“But if a letter I received late last night from the department is any indication, I’m concerned that the department is heading in the wrong direction,” Nadler said in his opening statement. “In response to our latest good faith offer, the department abruptly announced that if we move forward today it will ask President Trump to invoke what it refers to as a protective assertion of executive privilege on all the materials subject to our subpoena. Just minutes ago, it took that dramatic step.”
“Besides misapplying the doctrine of executive privilege, since the White House waived these privileges long ago and the department seemed open to sharing these materials with us just yesterday, this decision represents a clear escalation and the Trump administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’ constitutionally mandated duties,” he continued. “I hope that the department will think better of this last-minute outburst and return to negotiations.”
The two branches of government have been engaged in negotiations, and a very public tit-for-tat, since the redacted version of Mueller’s report was released last month. Nadler and Judiciary Committee Democrats want lawmakers to receive an unredacted version of the report, along with the grand jury materials and all the underlying evidence. Attorney General William Barr has claimed that he is unable to release the grand jury materials. The DOJ offered to allow 12 members of Congress and two staffers to view an unredacted version of the document in a secure location, but Nadler pushed back: he wants all members of the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees to review it.
In his letter to Trump officially recommending he invoke executive privilege over the report — on a probe that investigated whether his campaign colluded with Russia and whether he obstructed justice — Barr reiterated that he is legally unable to release underlying evidence and pointed to the Judiciary Committee’s “abrupt resort to a contempt vote” as rationale for the privilege request.
“In these circumstances, you may properly assert executive privilege with respect to the entirety of the Department of Justice materials that the committee has demanded, pending a final decision on the matter. … As the attorney general and head of the Department of Justice, I hereby request that you do so.”
Read Barr’s letter to Trump bellow:
Read the DOJ’s letter to Nadler below: