Trump asserts executive privilege over Mueller report
Today’s assertion of protective executive privilege over subpoenaed documents has no direct bearing on special counsel Robert Mueller testifying before the House, according to a Department of Justice official.
From a practical standpoint, however, whether a legal battle over the underlying documents affects Mueller’s testimony remains to be seen.
Mueller is tentatively scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on May 15.
The official further disagreed with House Judiciary Chairman Nadler’s assertion that the President waived executive privilege by providing materials to Mueller in the first place, saying there is past precedent for providing materials to law enforcement.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat on House Judiciary, told CNN that Democrats should "push back" and start talking more seriously about impeachment.
This comes moments after President Trump asserted executive privilege over the Mueller report.
"Do I think we are inching closer to it? ... Yeah," Rep. Richmond said.
Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said “this is a show” going into the hearing this morning. The hearing was called to vote on whether to find Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.
Collins said he believes "there is no precedent for the rush we're on right now."
“There is no precedent for a floor vote than there is a precedent for having this in the judiciary committee. This is an issue that is frankly very frustrating to have such an important topic being basically parlayed into something that frankly, what we've said all along, they're wanting it to appear more than what it is. They're willing to paint the attorney general is a — is the bad guy and they want to paint the attorney general as someone people can't trust. Why? Because they don't like the findings that he had. They don't like what came out of the Mueller report. So what they're actually trying to do is, is go forward and say we're going to make something that's actually not there. And this is just a show.”
Asked if he thinks this is a constitutional crisis, as Nadler said this morning, he answered:
“I think the only constitutional process here is to the chairman actually trying to make the attorney general go forward on stuff and give him stuff that he knows that he can't give legally. And I think he actually admitted that as well. That he can't legally have that stuff. The constitutional crisis will be a judiciary chairman trying to subpoena documents from the attorney general to force the attorney to give them stuff that he knows he can't have.”
He was also asked about the Justice Department's threat last night to ask President Trump to potentially assert executive privilege (note: he was just before Trump actually asserted that privilege).
"I think the DOJ was just responding to a very unaccommodating chairman. And that’s the way they chose to respond," he said.
Just minutes before the House Judiciary committee hearing on contempt began, the Justice Department told lawmakers that the President had invoked executive privilege over all the materials that Rep. Jerry Nadler had subpoenaed.
"Just minutes ago, it took that dramatic step," Chairman Nadler said at the beginning of the hearing.
Nadler responded by saying the vote would be moving forward, accusing the Justice Department of a "clear escalation" in its defiance . He urged negotiations to continue despite what he described as a "last-minute outburst."
"The Department's decision reflects President Trump's blanket defiance of Congress's constitutionally mandated duties," Nadler said in a statement.
"In the coming days, I expect that Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless Administration. The Committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover up."
On CNN's "New Day" this morning, Nadler said the United States is in a "constitutional crisis." He added, "We are in one because the President is disobeying the law, is refusing all information to Congress."
In a letter to President Trump, Attorney General Barr asked the President to "make a protective assertion of executive privilege with respect to Department of Justice documents recently subpoenaed" by the House Judiciary Committee.
Here's the first part of his letter:
The Justice Department has informed House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler this morning that the “President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials.”
Here's the letter from the Justice Department:
The House Judiciary committee is voting on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress this morning for refusing to comply with the committee’s subpoena.
However: Moments ago, Chairman Nadler announced that the Justice Department had informed him that the “President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials.”
Chairman Nadler said earlier this morning on CNN’s New Day that the US is in a "constitutional crisis" over a showdown about the release of a full version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
CLARIFICATION: This post has been updated to make clear that this vote is currently in progress.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler just gaveled today's hearing into session.
They are set to vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.
Remember: The decision to hold the vote came after the Justice Department declined to provide an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report to Congress. This isn't related to Barr's decision not to testify before the committee last week.
The House Judiciary Committee will vote this morning on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress. If the vote passes in the panel, it will then be taken up by the full House.
Being held in contempt of Congress means someone has obstructed the work of either Congress or a congressional committee.
This can take a lot of forms: Sometimes that disobedience means refusing to appear before a committee to testify, and sometimes that means refusing to pony up requested documents.
What's the point of holding someone in contempt of Congress? According to the Congressional Research Service, contempt can be used to coerce compliance, to punish the person or to remove whatever the obstruction is.
There are several ways members of Congress can do this:
- They can tell the House or Senate sergeant at arms to detain or imprison the person in contempt until he or she honors congressional demands. This is called "inherent contempt." But it's super rare and hasn't happened in modern times.
- Congress can certify a contempt citation to the executive branch — headed by the President — to try to get the person criminally prosecuted.
- Congress can ask the judicial branch to enforce a congressional subpoena. In other words, Congress can seek a federal court's civil judgment saying the person is legally obligated to comply with the subpoena.