barr nadler
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Attorney General William Barr and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
It's just three weeks since House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler subpoenaed the report without redactions, and all its underlying evidence, from special counsel Robert Mueller relating to his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Despite this, Nadler, D-N.Y., and fellow panel Democrats voted 24-16 Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to comply in the blink of an eye with their demand. Never mind that it would have been illegal for Barr to do so. It will be for the full House to decide whether to support the contempt vote, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she'll follow the committee's lead.

Democrats took turns grandstanding at the hearing, and simply ignored the fact that it would be against the law for Barr to disseminate some redacted material in Mueller's report. Nor did they acknowledge the mammoth amount of work that would be required to organize and hand over Mueller's mountains of evidence.

It's, of course, not surprising that no Democrat objected to Nadler's precipitous actions for, in 2019, congressional oversight consisting of forming up on one side of the committee room and barking at the other side.

Congress invokes official contempt charges rarely, indeed only three times in the past 35 years. It is meant to be a last resort. But in 2012, the last time it was used, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt for refusing to provide Congress with subpoenaed material, and Holder was a Democrat. So this is payback. But it should be noted that Holder had by then defied Congress for 203 days before House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., first formally threatened him with contempt charges. Even then, Issa gave Holder an additional 48 days before his committee actually held a vote. And Issa was demanding answers about a Justice Department scandal that had actually resulted in the murder of at least one government official.

In shockingly sharp contrast, Nadler went from subpoena to contempt vote in 19 days, without evincing any desire to negotiate with the Justice Department over what could properly be shared by the committee. Nadler isn't approaching this as one in which he should work out an agreement between two co-equal branches of government, which would be perfectly possible in this case if both sides were willing to be reasonable. Instead, he's running a show trial to gin up enthusiasm among angry Democratic donors, both small and large.

What's more, and worse, is that Nadler's show trial is in pursuit of an end that is manifestly wrong. Barr's efforts to protect privileged grand jury materials are not only justifiable but specifically mandated by law. Nadler has not a leg to stand on. Every single House Democrat on that committee knows and understands this. Yet not one objected to the circus in which they played the role of sundry clowns.


Comment: From the linked article:
[...] James Wilson, one of the principal authors of Art. I, Sec. 6, Cl. 1, said the Speech and Debate Clause was designed to "enable and encourage a representative of the publick to discharge his publick trust with firmness and success...that he should enjoy the fullest liberty of speech." It wasn't meant to allow members of Congress to get materials they aren't otherwise entitled to.

In any event, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled only a month ago in McKeever v. Barr that even the federal courts do not have the inherent authority to order the release of material protected under grand jury secrecy.

Furthermore, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel wrote in a 1985 opinion that proposed legislation that would have authorized "committees of Congress to obtain court-ordered release of matters occurring before a grand jury would violate separation of powers principles by encroaching upon the Executive's control of prosecutorial matters." If that bill had become law [NOTE: It didn't.], it would have codified "legislative encroachment into the Executive's exclusive authority to enforce the law."

It is not surprising that Barr is holding the line and upholding the law. Congressional threats to hold him in contempt for abiding by federal law are the very height of arrogance - especially in light of reports these congressional leaders have refused to even read the virtually unredacted report already available to them.

Contrast this again with Republican treatment of Holder. Unlike Barr, who is legally required to protect grand jury material, Holder was merely asserting an amorphous and constitutionally dubious privilege over internal Justice Department deliberations.

Nadler should explain why he is in such a rush. His timetable has nothing to do with justice or good government, and everything to do with the 2020 election calendar. Mueller couldn't find any evidence of collusion by Trump's campaign or any other American with Russia and its malefactors. So the clock is ticking for Democrats to use the fruits of Mueller's investigation, which he so helpfully gave them, in defiance of precedent, to raise money and talking points for use in the Democrats' pursuit of power.

Congress has a duty to sift through Mueller's evidence. It has a duty to exercise oversight and provide checks on executive power, in the interest of justice and the good of the country. Nadler's show trial has nothing to do with any of that.