With Contempt Vote Looming, Barr Aides Agree to Talk to Nadler

(Bloomberg) -- Hours after House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler scheduled a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to provide a fully unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, the Justice Department agreed to further talks to resolve the dispute.

“I am pleased that the Department of Justice has agreed to meet with my staff tomorrow —and not Wednesday afternoon, as originally proposed by DOJ,” Nadler, a New York Democrat, said in a statement on Monday night. “It remains vital that the committee obtain access to the full, unredacted report and the underlying materials.”

Nadler added, however: “At the moment, our plans to consider holding Attorney General Barr accountable for his failure to comply with our subpoena still stand.”

Nadler had set votes for Wednesday morning on a resolution and an accompanying report on the contempt resolution, the committee said in a statement released Monday morning, shortly after Barr missed a deadline set by Nadler.

“The attorney general’s failure to comply with our subpoena, after extensive accommodation efforts, leaves us no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings in order to enforce the subpoena and access the full, unredacted report,” Nadler said. “If the department presents us with a good faith offer for access to the full report and the underlying evidence, I reserve the right to postpone these proceedings.”

The Justice Department earlier on Monday had asked Nadler for more time to negotiate a resolution, and a meeting on Wednesday.

"We were disappointed that the committee took initial steps this morning toward moving forward with the contempt process," according to a letter to Nadler from Stephen Boyd, head of legislative affairs for the department.

Department officials are prepared to discuss providing more lawmakers and aides access to a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report, as well as whether access can be given to other materials cited in the report, Boyd said in the letter.

If the committee does vote to hold Barr in contempt, the full House of Representatives would have to vote as well. The contempt resolution would also empower House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “to take all appropriate action to enforce the subpoena.”

Nadler had made a new offer to Barr last week after the attorney general declined to comply with a subpoena for the full report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of the investigation by President Donald Trump. He has asked Barr to engage in a good-faith effort to let Congress access the report.

Nadler requested that Barr allow all members of Congress and some staff to have the ability to view redacted portions of the report in a secure location and work with the Congress to get court approval to release grand jury information, which is protected by law.

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee, said in a statement that Nadler’s subpoena of Barr would have required the attorney general to break the law by releasing protected grand jury information, and said the department has been willing to negotiate.

“Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general when their anger actually lies with the president and the special counsel, who found neither conspiracy nor obstruction,” he said.

Last week, the Justice Department said it declined to comply with the panel’s subpoena for the full, unredacted report.

“Allowing your committee to use Justice Department investigative files to re-investigate the same matters that the department has investigated and to second-guess decisions that have been made by the department would not only set a dangerous precedent, but would also have immediate negative consequences,” Boyd wrote in a letter to Nadler.

Barr also declined to appear for a scheduled hearing last week before Nadler’s committee in a dispute over the format of the panel.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.