By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler on Friday offered Attorney General William Barr a last chance to hand over the full version of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation report, before moving to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.
In a letter to the attorney general, Nadler set a 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) Monday deadline for Barr to comply with a subpoena demanding the unredacted document and underlying evidence from the Mueller probe. He also offered to negotiate further to gain the Justice Department’s cooperation, but made clear what would be at stake if Barr refused.
“If the department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse,” the New York Democrat wrote.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
The Mueller report, which Democrats say as vital to congressional probes of Republican President Donald Trump, details extensive contacts between his 2016 campaign and Moscow and the campaign’s expectation that it would benefit from Russian hacking and propaganda. It also describes actions Trump took to try to impede Mueller’s investigation.
Barr released a redacted version on April 18. Nadler subpoenaed the entire document a day later. But the Justice Department has resisted, saying the subpoena does not constitute legitimate oversight and describing its demands as “overbroad and extraordinarily burdensome”.
Republicans in Congress have also dismissed Nadler’s efforts as political theater intended to satisfy a progressive voter base that helped give Democrats control of the House of Representatives in last year’s midterm election.
But unless Barr complies, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to begin moving forward on Monday with a contempt citation that could ultimately lead to a civil court case against Barr, followed by fines and even imprisonment for failure to comply.
Nadler’s letter capped a week of escalating confrontation between Barr and Democrats in the House and Senate.
The attorney general missed an initial subpoena deadline to turn over the Mueller material on Wednesday and skipped a hearing before Nadler’s committee on Thursday after Democrats adopted an aggressive format that would have subjected Barr to questions from staff attorneys.
Some Democrats also called for Barr’s resignation, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the attorney general of lying to Congress, adding: “That’s a crime.”
But the House Judiciary chairman offered some leeway on the subpoena’s demands.
Addressing a department complaint about the volume of material sought by the panel, Nadler said he could seek a specific set of material including witness interviews and contemporaneous notes by witnesses describing specific events.
The letter also renewed his request for Barr to join Congress in seeking a court order that would allow lawmakers access to grand jury information.
(Reporting by David Morgan, Susan Heavey and Andy Sullivan; editing by David Alexander and Jonathan Oatis).