WASHINGTON — Freshman U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean didn’t mince words Wednesday as she voted to hold U.S. Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, even as tensions further escalated between President Donald Trump’s White House and congressional Democrats.
“We are at a grave moment,” Dean, D-4th District, said. “Our constitutional system of government is in jeopardy. We have to make sure that we protect the rule of law. We are up against an administration that cares nothing for the rule of law, cares only for self, and we need to see the entire Mueller report. Mr. Barr has given away his credibility here.”
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted 24-16 along party lines to recommend the full House find Barr in contempt for his refusal to comply with a committee subpoena seeking an unredacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
We are just starting this @HouseJudiciary mark up subpoenaing AG Barr to ensure we get to the truth. To get the unredacted Mueller Report and all the underlying documents. Our Constitution depends on this co-equal branch having all the information to do their job. pic.twitter.com/spjdLHKeup
— Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (@RepDean) May 8, 2019
Dean was joined Wednesday by fellow freshman and committee member, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, who said she took no pleasure in her vote against Barr.
“I’m not joyful about this. I’m not afraid of where it takes us,” Scanlon said. “What I am is profoundly saddened that we’re in a position where we have an administration that is stonewalling, yes, even acting in contempt of not just Congress, not just the rule of law, but the American people.”
— Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (@RepMGS) May 8, 2019
The committee’s vote came after a full day of partisan sniping on Capitol Hill and after Trump asserted executive privilege over the report, further infuriating the House Democratic majority.
“This is not a step we take lightly,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said at the kickoff of the hearing Wednesday morning. He called the attempt to invoke privilege a “clear escalation in the Trump administration’s blanket defiance” of Congress and the latest example of “unprecedented obstruction” by the president and his allies.
In the hours leading up to the vote, House Republicans defended Trump and Barr, depicting the Democrats’ push for more details about Mueller’s findings as the latest chapter in an attempt to score political points by bashing the president.
“This is all about impeaching the president,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said. “Why don’t [Democrats] just say it? Why don’t they just jump to the impeachment proceedings like their liberal media overlords are telling them to do? Well, the reason is that the American people don’t support impeachment.”
Gaetz was the lone member of the committee to miss the final vote on the contempt resolution late on Wednesday. He missed the vote because he was traveling on Air Force One with Trump en route to Florida, according to his spokesman Luke Ball.
Because Democrats have the majority on the committee, the party-line approval of the contempt resolution was all but certain. Still, lawmakers seized the opportunity to trade barbs over the findings of the Mueller report.
Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., observed that lawmakers were “here today because we’re witnessing the breakdown of the foundations of our nation’s constitutional order.” He said of Barr, “The attorney general of the United States is stonewalling the people.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., added, “The president declares himself above and beyond the law.” He added, “If you act with contempt for the people in Congress, we will find you in contempt of the people and of Congress.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said that, given the threats to U.S. democracy from a foreign adversary that were revealed in the Mueller report, he was “at a loss for understanding” why his GOP colleagues wouldn’t join Democrats’ efforts to secure the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. “We have no choice but to move forward with a contempt citation,” he said.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said Barr had “betrayed his oath to uphold the law and defend the constitution.” Demings has publicly called for Barr’s resignation in light of the reports that Mueller complained to Barr that he had misrepresented the report’s findings.
Republicans, meanwhile, accused their Democratic colleagues of rushing to hold Barr in contempt to rebuke a president whose policies they dislike.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District, dismissed the vote as “nothing more than an attempt to publicly shame and discredit Mr. Barr for political purposes.”
This partisan vote to hold the Attorney General in contempt is nothing more than an attempt to publicly shame and discredit Mr. Barr for political purposes. pic.twitter.com/sjh4fFXVTU
— Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (@GReschenthaler) May 8, 2019
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said he’s “interested to see the look on the judge’s face” when Democrats present their case, accusing his colleagues of moving prematurely without negotiating with Barr in good faith. “I can’t help but say if you think this administration, this president is so dangerous, why aren’t you acting on the many resolutions of impeachment you’ve already introduced?”
The contempt resolution will now head to the House floor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday that Barr should be held in contempt of Congress and “nothing is off table” regarding whether to impeach him, CNBC reported.
Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek contributed to this story.