House committee just voted to hold Bill Barr in contempt for his Russia probe obstruction

House committee just voted to hold Bill Barr in contempt for his Russia probe obstruction
PBS NewsHour

In a historic vote on Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress.

The vote was prompted by Barr's refusal to hand over an unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and the underlying evidence to Congress. The final vote was 24 in favor of the resolution, while 16 voted against. Unsurprisingly, all Democrats supported the contempt motion, while Republicans opposed.

The resolution will next go to the full House floor for a vote of the entire chamber.

In addition to withholding the full report, Barr rankled the Democrats in charge of the committee last week when he refused to show up for a hearing he had initially agreed to because lawmakers planned to employ staff counsel to question him.

"We did not relish doing this, but we had no choice," said Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) after the vote. He said Barr had behaved as Trump's personal defense lawyer rather than the attorney general and turned the Justice Department into an instrument in support of the president.

He cited the fact that Barr misled the country about the contents of Mueller report before he released it and Trump's declaration that the administration will resist all subpoenas as justification for the contempt vote.

The Justice Department issued a statement in response to the vote, suggesting that the committee's insistence on getting grand jury material from the report contradicts the principle of secrecy that governs such proceedings.

"No one, including Chairman Nadler and his Committee, will force the Department of Justice to break the law," said DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec.

But Nadler has called for the Justice Department to ask a court to officially unseal the grand jury material, as it has done in the past in similar situations. He said he plans to go to court with this request even if the department does not join him.

Attorney General Eric Holder was the only other person at the head of the Justice Department to be held in contempt. He faced off against and stonewalled a Republican-controlled Congress that was scrutinizing the notorious "Fast and Furious" operation.

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