A senior US congressional Democrat yesterday threatened to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena to provide Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report on the Russia inquiry, and accused President Donald Trump’s administration of a growing attack on democracy.
Barr canceled his scheduled appearance on Thursday before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee after clashing with Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler over the hearing’s format. Barr testified on Wednesday to the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee, stoutly defending the Republican president in the wake of the release of Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“We will have no choice but to move quickly to hold the attorney general in contempt if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith,” Nadler said at the outset of a brief committee session held in place of Barr’s testimony.
Nadler painted the confrontation with Barr in stark terms.
“Ladies and gentleman, the challenge we face is that the president of the United States wants desperately to prevent Congress, the co-equal branch of the government, from providing any check whatsoever to even his most reckless decisions,” Nadler said.
“He is trying to render Congress inert as a separate and co-equal branch of government. The challenge we face is that if we don’t stand up to him together today we risk forever losing the power to stand up to any president in the future. The very system of government of the United States - the system of limited power, the system of not having a president as a dictator - is very much at stake,” Nadler said.
Nadler’s comments indicated that the Democrats, who control the House, prepared to escalate a showdown with Trump’s administration, which has resisted their demands for documents and information on a wide range of topics, from Trump’s taxes to his potential financial conflicts of interest.
The Justice Department said on Wednesday it would not comply with a subpoena issued by Nadler’s committee seeking an unredacted copy of Mueller’s report and evidence gathered in the 22-month investigation. Democrats have said they may issue a subpoena to try to force Barr to testify before their committee.