President Trump asserted executive privilege on Wednesday in a bid to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report and underlying documents from subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee.
The president’s move came after the Justice Department, late Tuesday night, requested that the House Judiciary Committee postpone a scheduled vote on to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to provide the Mueller files to the panel. The Justice Department warned that if the committee did not postpone the vote, the attorney general would recommend that Trump claim executive privilege over the materials.
On Wednesday, the White House did just that.
“The Attorney General has been transparent and accommodating throughout this process, including by releasing the no-collusion, no-conspiracy, no-obstruction Mueller Report to the public and offering to testify before the Committee. These attempts to work with the Committee have been flatly rejected. They didn’t like the results of the report, and now they want a redo,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Wednesday.
“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,” she continued.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, who wrote to committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Tuesday night, sent a follow-up letter to him on Wednesday morning saying the same.
“We are disappointed that you have rejected the Department of Justice’s request to delay the vote of the Committee on the Judiciary on a contempt finding against the Attorney General this morning,” Boyd wrote, adding that the committee has “terminated our ongoing negotiations and abandoned the accommodation process” related to the subpoena.
“Unfortunately, rather than allowing negotiations to continue, you scheduled an unnecessary contempt vote, which you refused to postpone to allow additional time for compromise,” Boyd wrote Wednesday morning. “Accordingly, this is to advise you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials. As I indicated in my letter to you last night, this protective assertion of executive privilege ensures the President’s ability to make a final decision whether to assert privilege following a full review of these materials.”
The vote to hold Barr in contempt comes amid a stalemate between the Justice Department and congressional Democrats over Mueller’s full report, and over Barr’s failure to appear for a scheduled hearing before the committee last week after disagreements over the format of the hearing. Democrats on the committee wanted to have their committee staff question Barr. The Justice Department, instead, wanted members to do the questioning. Barr did not appear, and the committee held a meeting with an empty witness chair.
Democrats have blasted Barr for weeks over his handling of the special counsel’s report. Barr, first, released an initial four-page summary of Mueller’s findings, announcing in late March that the special counsel found no evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Mueller was also leading an inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice—a matter on which Mueller did not come to a conclusion.
Barr, in reviewing the report, said the evidence found in the investigation was not sufficient to charge the president with an obstruction of justice offense.
Barr has also been hit for his rollout of the full report, which he released to the public and to Congress last month. The report had redactions over sensitive sources and methods, grand jury material, and other areas to protect the reputational interests of “peripheral players” in the investigation.