Trump asserts executive privilege over Mueller report

10:24 a.m. ET, May 8, 2019

JUST IN: Trump asserts executive privilege

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:

10:28 a.m. ET, May 8, 2019

House Judiciary committee is voting on holding Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress

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.

10:14 a.m. ET, May 8, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee just gaveled in

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.

9:54 a.m. ET, May 8, 2019

The House could hold Barr in contempt of Congress. Here's what that means.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Congress can certify a contempt citation to the executive branch — headed by the President — to try to get the person criminally prosecuted.
  3. 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.
9:44 a.m. ET, May 8, 2019

What happens next if the committee votes to hold Barr in contempt

The House Judiciary committee is voting this morning on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.

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.

So what happens next? If the Judiciary Committee votes Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt, the matter would then be taken up by the full House, where Democrats have a 38-seat majority.

The contempt citation is unlikely to have much practical effect — House Republicans held then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt during the Obama administration, too — but it ratchets up the stakes for House Democrats and the Justice Department at a sensitive time.

9:25 a.m. ET, May 8, 2019

Nancy Pelosi says Barr should be held in contempt

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Attorney General William Barr should be held in contempt during an on-stage interview with the Washington Post.

"Yes, he should be held in contempt," she said.

Remember: She's referring to the Department of Justice's failure to comply to the subpoena for the unredacted report, rather than his not showing up to testify. 

As for the negotiations this week to avoid the contempt hearing, Pelosi said:

"We thought they'd come back with counter offer, but they pulled a temper tantrum."

Pelosi deferred again on whether the contempt vote should be brought to the floor.

"They'll today take their action in the committee and then the next step would be to bring it to the floor. We’ll see what their recommendation is about that," she said.

On possible impeachment, she reiterated nothing is off the table but still urged caution. 

"Well, nothing is ever off the table, but I would say that---there's... I wish everybody would take a deep breath and be almost prayerful about this." 

9:16 a.m. ET, May 8, 2019

The House will vote on holding Barr in contempt today

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has scheduled a Wednesday vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress after the Justice Department declined to provide an unredacted version of the Mueller report to Congress.

The vote to hold Barr in contempt marks the first time that House Democrats are moving to punish a Trump administration official for defying a congressional subpoena and represents a dramatic escalation in tensions between Democrats and the White House.

Nadler set Wednesday's Judiciary Committee vote after Barr did not agree by Monday's 9 a.m. ET deadline to comply with a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller's full, unredacted report and underlying evidence to Congress.