Nadler rejects DOJ demand to delay Barr contempt vote

The House Judiciary Committee and Justice Department traded letters Tuesday in an effort to kickstart negotiations for Congress to obtain documents from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, but the efforts did not appear to halt a looming vote next week to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.

The House panel and Justice Department still appear to be at loggerheads even after House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler wrote the department and White House late last month to say he was open to limiting the committee’s subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and underlying materials to a smaller subset of documents.

But Nadler on Tuesday evening sent a new letter to the Justice Department rejecting its request to resume negotiations on the committee’s subpoena on the condition that the House would delay the contempt vote scheduled for June 11.

“We urge you to return to the accommodation process without conditions,” Nadler wrote. “We are ready to begin negotiating immediately.”

Nadler’s letter came after the Justice Department wrote to Nadler earlier Tuesday saying it could work with the committee to produce a limited set of documents. The Justice Department wrote that it was hoping for a similar concession with the Judiciary Committee that it worked out with the House Intelligence Committee for access to a set of a dozen documents related to Mueller’s counterintelligence work.

But the Justice Department said it could only move forward with negotiations if the threat of a contempt vote was dropped.

“The Department is willing to resume negotiations with the Committee regarding accommodations of its narrowed subpoena, provided that the committee takes reasonable steps to restore the status quo ante by mooting its May 8 vote and removing any threat of an imminent vote by the House of Representatives to hold the Attorney General in contempt,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote.

Nadler’s May 24 letter, sent after the committee voted to hold Barr in contempt for failing to provide subpoenaed Mueller documents, provides some insight into previously unknown concessions behind-the-scenes while Nadler has been publicly demanding full compliance with the subpoena. It also shows Democrats legal strategy to take steps to show it was willing to negotiate, believing it will help their case in court, as they’ve previously expressed unwillingness to review a less redacted version of the Mueller report that DOJ had offered.

Initially, the committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for the fully unredacted version of the report and all underlying materials. Negotiations went nowhere and the committee voted to hold Barr in contempt last month.

In the May 24 letter, Nadler asked for the reports of specific interviews Mueller’s investigators conducted with more than 30 people, including former White House counsel Don McGahn, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, former deputy White House counsel Annie Donaldson, former FBI director James Comey, Trump adviser Stephen Miller and former deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Additionally, he asked for a series of memos and notes, while agreeing to limit to Judiciary Committee members and “appropriate staff” the ability to review the non-grand jury redactions in the Mueller report.

The letter appeared to back off from demanding the portions of the report redacted for grand jury reasons.

Nadler explained in his latest letter that the offer was written in response to the Justice Department objecting to the subpoena for being overbroad.

“Our offer to compromise was intended to respond to your prior objections by seeking a middle ground. We urge the Department to do the same,” Nadler wrote.