The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to allow the Judiciary Committee to take Trump officials that refuse to cooperate with subpoenas to court using a civil-contempt resolution.
Democrats agreed to a civil-contempt resolution instead of a criminal contempt of Congress, which can be enforced with fines and even jail time. The 229-191 party-line vote came after Attorney General Bill Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn refused to comply with the Judiciary Committee’s subpoenas.
The committee issued a subpoena to Barr for the full unredacted report authored by special counsel Bob Mueller and the underlying evidence in Mueller’s investigation. McGahn refused to testify before the committee after the White House instructed him not to show up.
The vote came after Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler agreed not to hold Barr in criminal contempt in exchange for some of the unreleased documents in Mueller’s probe, Business Insider reported.
"The committees have a constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight, to make recommendations to the House as necessary, and to craft legislation that will curb the waste, fraud, and abuse on full display in the Trump administration," Nadler said Tuesday on the House floor. "This is why it is important that the Judiciary Committee be able to act in such matters using all of our Article 1 powers, as contemplated in this Resolution and described in both the Rules Committee Report and the House Judiciary Committee's Contempt Report."
Another committee may hold Barr in contempt:
The House Oversight Committee also plans to vote on whether it will hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for refusing to cooperate with their investigation into a citizenship question being added to the 2020 census after a longtime GOP operative wrote that it would “clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”
The committee issued subpoenas for documents related to why the question was added.
Ahead of the vote, the Justice Department announced that Trump had asserted executive privilege over documents related to the census, CNN reported.
"This does not appear to be an effort to engage in good-faith negotiations or accommodations," committee chairman Elijah Cummings said Wednesday. "Instead, it appears to be another example of the administration's blanket defiance of Congress' constitutionally-mandated responsibilities."
In the oversight committee case, the resolution members plan to vote on includes citations for both civil and criminal contempt.