That led to some initial confusion and protest from Republicans, prompting ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., to argue that the contempt proceedings were moving too quickly. Nadler responded that it was only until the threat of contempt arose that the DOJ opened itself to negotiations with the House panel.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement: “It is deeply disappointing that elected representatives of the American people have chosen to engage in such inappropriate political theatrics.”
Nadler, the spokeswoman said, “forced the President to assert executive privilege to preserve the status quo. No one, including Chairman Nadler and his Committee, will force the Department of Justice to break the law.”
The vote Wednesday afternoon came a day after the House panel’s staff met with Justice Department officials in a last-minute attempt to hash out differences between the two sides over Mueller’s report. That meeting lasted less than 30 minutes, and Nadler was not present, NBC News reported, citing two sources familiar with the meeting.
Nadler first threatened to hold Barr in contempt Monday, after the Justice Department blew past the Democrat-led committee’s second deadline to hand over an unredacted version of the Mueller report, along with all of its underlying evidence.
Nadler had subpoenaed Barr on April 18 for the materials, saying his committee is “entitled” to them. The DOJ called that measure “unnecessary.”
Barr had made a less-redacted version of the report available to a handful of lawmakers from both major political parties in a secure room on Capitol Hill. But Nadler and other Democrats rejected that option, demanding instead that Barr give the full report to all of Congress.
Politico, citing two sources familiar with the negotiations, reported that the Justice Department offered at the Tuesday meeting for lawmakers to allow more staff members to come with them to view the secured version of the Mueller report, as well as keep their handwritten notes. But the DOJ did not offer to allow more members of Congress to view the less-redacted version, according to Politico.
On Tuesday night, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to Nadler saying that the panel’s continued demands were “unreasonable.” Boyd demanded that the committee cancel the contempt vote, or else Barr will recommend that President Donald Trump invoke executive privilege over the materials requested by the subpoena.
Nadler slammed the department in response, saying that that is “not how executive privilege works.” “The White House waived these privileges long ago, and the [DOJ] seemed open to sharing these materials with us earlier today,” Nadler said.
Trump did assert executive privilege Wednesday morning. But Barr said that that “protective assertion” gave Trump the option to make a “final assertion” on whether to make the claim for all or merely some of the materials related to the Mueller report.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was more unequivocal. “Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands,” Sanders said. “Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.”
Mueller’s team wrote in their 448-page report that they found insufficient evidence to show that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Mueller did not determine on whether Trump himself obstructed the investigation, but Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded from the report that there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend an obstruction offense.