House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Friday sent his latest offer Attorney General William Barr to try to reach an agreement in his effort to obtain the unredacted special counsel report and the underlying evidence before Nadler moves forward with holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress.
Nadler sent Barr a new letter proposing that the committee could work with the Justice Department to prioritize which investigative materials it turns over to Congress, specifically citing witness interviews and the contemporaneous notes provided by witnesses that were cited in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Nadler wrote that he was “willing to prioritize a specific, defined set of underlying investigative and evidentiary materials for immediate production.”
But Nadler’s letter does not budge on Democrats’ insistence that the Justice Department allow Congress to view grand jury material that’s redacted in the report, which Barr has argued he’s not allowed by law to provide.
Nadler set a deadline of 9 a.m. ET Monday for Barr to respond and said he would move to contempt proceedings if the attorney general does not comply.
“The Committee is prepared to make every realistic effort to reach an accommodation with the Department,” Nadler wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CNN. “But if the Department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the Committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse.”
The new letter is part of House Democrats’ broader legal strategy of seeking to show they were being as accommodating as they could be to the Justice Department, ahead of a likely court battle to try to obtain the Mueller documents they’re seeking.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nadler’s letter comes one day after Barr skipped a House Judiciary Committee hearing after the committee voted to allow staff attorneys to question the attorney general. Instead, Nadler gaveled in a 15-minute hearing on Thursday with an empty chair in Barr’s place. But Nadler’s threat of contempt is tied to the subpoena issued last month for the full, unredacted Mueller report and investigative materials.
The Justice Department responded to Nadler on Wednesday rejecting the subpoena, charging that the subpoena was “not legitimate oversight” and an “overbroad and extraordinarily burdensome” request.
Nadler responded Friday that the question of “legitimate” oversight was “not the Department’s judgment to make.”
Nadler argued that Congress needed to see the underlying evidence because the Mueller report cites the Justice Department’s opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. As a result, Congress needs to “evaluate whether constitutional remedies are appropriate,” Nadler wrote, hinting at impeachment.
In addition to the request for grand jury material and prioritizing a narrower set of underlying evidence, Nadler urged Barr to allow all members of Congress to view a less-redacted version of the report, which includes everything but grand jury material and has been made available to a group of a dozen congressional leaders.
So far, Democrats have not read that version of the report after they rejected the Justice Department’s offer.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Nadler of asking for information he’s not legally entitled to without launching an impeachment proceeding.
“As Chairman Nadler continues to turn down free information from the Justice Department, he once again places absurd demands on the department to comply with his oversight request,” Collins said in a statement. “Democrats continue to deliver inaccurate statements and abusive politics, while demanding the attorney general either break the law or face contempt charges. Their chief complaint against the attorney general is his upholding the rule of law when they wish him to disregard it.”