The House Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to consider holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing a congressional subpoena demanding that he fully release the Mueller report.
A lightly redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election has been public for many weeks, with printed versions leading the best-seller lists.
A version of the report that is 98.5% unredacted, with 99% unredacted in the “obstruction” section, has been available to Congress for several weeks. But not one congressional Democrat has bothered to go to the secure facility to read it.
Enter Rep. Hank Johnson, Georgia Democrat, who is legislatively and politically irrelevant and, until this hearing, was mostly known for asking a congressional witness if the island of Guam could tip over.
As committee members made their own individual speeches before they voted to hold Mr. Barr in contempt, Mr. Johnson was recognized.
After some standard Democrat talking points, he uttered a sentence that unintentionally revealed the true purpose of House Democrats in their war on Bill Barr.
“How can we impeach, without getting the documents?” he said.
Indeed, this entire charade is not about the public’s right to know, Russian interference in our elections or the conduct of the attorney general.
It is about impeachment.
Maybe someone can notify Mr. Johnson that he already has the documents available to him if he will simply go read the report.
The only aspects redacted in the version that is available to Congress relate to grand jury material, which cannot be released without a judge’s approval.
For this reason, Mr. Barr has refused to release the full version of the report.
This is not the attorney general’s opinion. It is required by law.
Rule 6(e) of the federal rules of criminal procedure prevents the disclosure of a matter before a grand jury.
There are Democratic lawyers on the House Judiciary Committee. They must understand this.
Impeachment is not imminent, would be a political overreach, may never happen, and ultimately will lead to nothing since votes from 20 Republican senators would be required for President Trump to be removed from office.
Could there be another motive?
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, revealed what he believes is Democrats’ primary goal, when he said at the hearing, “I don’t think today is about getting information. … I think it’s all about trying to destroy Bill Barr because Democrats are nervous [that] he’s going to get to the bottom of everything.”
Mr. Barr said last week that he is investigating the origin of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant process (which he has called ‘spying’), and the Steele dossier, which the Mueller report almost entirely disproves.
Democrats are trying to ruin Mr. Barr’s reputation to weaken him before he presents his findings.
The House Judiciary Committee did not want Mr. Barr to testify. That’s why they made the unprecedented requirement that he appear for questions from committee staff, in addition to members of the committee. Mr. Barr isn’t on trial. He’s a Cabinet official from a co-equal branch of government testifying before Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Mr. Barr for six hours without needing staff to ask questions.
Much of this tug-of-war between the executive branch and the legislative branch will be settled by the courts. That will take time.
Until then, we can expect increasingly embarrassing theatrics from House Democrats.
If they want to know more about the Mueller report, they can read it. But they won’t, which should tell us everything we need to know.
Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney reelection campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.
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