House Democrats consider packaging contempt citations
House Democrats are not rushing for the full House to vote on holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt, instead considering wrapping multiple contempt citations into a single package for a vote.
“I think it’s a great idea,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler told reporters Friday. Nadler said that a package of contempt citations made sense “given the unprecedented situation” in which the Trump administration is stonewalling congressional subpoenas.
So far, Nadler’s committee has been the only one to move on a contempt resolution, voting this week to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. But other committees, such as the Oversight and Intelligence panels, may also wind up with witnesses held in contempt for not complying with subpoenas, Nadler said. House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings has already threatened contempt over his subpoenas that have been rejected by the White House.
And Nadler is also threatening to move forward with contempt against former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was issued a subpoena for documents and testimony related to the Mueller investigation. The White House has instructed McGahn not to comply with the subpoena for documents, but it’s not clear if McGahn will testify under subpoena May 21.
“We’ve subpoenaed McGahn. We’re expecting him to show up on the 21st,” Nadler said. “And if he doesn’t he will be subject to contempt, unless he has a court order telling him he can’t, which I don’t think he would get.”
Nadler told the Justice Department in letter made public Friday afternoon that the committee “stands ready to resume the accommodation process” to reach a deal to review the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence before the full House votes to hold Barr in contempt.
In the letter, Nadler noted that when it came to holding Barr in contempt, “the full House has not yet taken action on the matter.”
A Democratic leadership aide said that no decisions had been made about the path forward for contempt, and that packaging contempt citations was one of several options still under consideration. The aide noted that contempt is a last resort in what’s often lengthy negotiations over materials under subpoena, and the only vote taken on contempt so far was for Barr.
While Democrats are weighing a floor vote and other actions — such as jailing or fining those who don’t comply with subpoenas under Congress’ long-dormant inherent contempt powers — they are also cognizant that they will likely need to go to court in order to obtain the documents they have subpoenaed. Many of their steps have been taken in an effort to try to show they are exhausting all options to obtain the materials they’re seeking before they have to make their argument in front of a judge.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to provide timing for when Barr or other possible contempt citations could be voted on by the House.
“When we’re ready, we’ll come to the floor,” Pelosi said Thursday. “And we’ll just see, because there might be some other contempt of Congress issues that we want to deal with at the same time. And he wants to do it as soon as possible, and so do we.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.