Attorney General Bill Barr just wrote a letter essentially daring the House Judiciary Committee to start formal impeachment proceedings if they want to get a copy of the full Mueller Report and underlying grand jury evidence.
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Instead of providing the report, the Attorney General sent a reply to Nadler positing that a “legal basis” must be established for the request — most obviously, an impeachment inquiry.
Barr further tantalized the president’s critics by admitting that there are greater than two dozen ongoing criminal cases and investigations stemming from the Mueller Report. He wrote:
“The Trump Administration is trying to box the Democrats in, to get them to make a decision about the formal process of impeachment,” says former federal prosecutor and Pace University School of Law professor Mimi Rocah.
“They know that it could cause dissension because some people in the party want impeachment,” says Rocah, “and others do not want to start the formal process.”
She’s one of more than 400 former federal prosecutors from around the country who signed an open letter to the Department of Justice saying that President Trump would’ve been charged with criminal obstruction of justice based on the Mueller Report, were he not in the office.
I’m proud to be one of signatories of this letter. https://t.co/Nwk5N6ND1H
— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) May 6, 2019
Last Friday, Nadler sent Barr an ultimatum demanding the report from him today, at the penalty of the Attorney General being held in contempt of Congress.
Today, the House set a vote for contempt charges against Barr, which will take place in two days, on Wednesday.
Contempt of Congress is a criminal charge that could itself lead to the appointment of another special prosecutor.
But contempt is not an impeachment inquiry yet, which is definitely considered a “judicial proceeding” according to a recent ruling on grand jury secrecy cited in Barr’s letter today.
“It seems to me that the grand jury secrecy statute contemplates getting materials to Congress to make a preliminary decision about if they should impeach,” says Rocah. “Obviously, Barr is going to contest that and make them prove it in court. As a lawyer, I understand why you would want to litigate the grand jury materials issue because it’s not clear. But Congress should win.”
During the Watergate proceedings, the Special Prosecutor went to court to assist Congress in obtaining the materials, but this time, the AG is using the law to try and force Democrats’ hand or send them to court against the country’s largest, best-funded law firm, the DOJ.
However, other comparisons between Watergate and the Mueller Report continue to grow – such as Speaker Pelosi’s reference to Trump repeating the same acts that led to Nixon’s third article of impeachment – with House Democrats attempts to obtain its grand jury materials, evidence, and testimony.
The Attorney General’s latest move dramatically increases the already fraught tension between the Trump Administration and Congress over the Mueller Report, which will lead to a fateful decision in the House Judiciary Committee soon; to impeach or not to impeach.
Here’s a copy of the complete letter from AG Barr to Chairman Nadler: