The Democrats are out of ammo, so they continue to flog the dead horse of the Mueller Report. Today, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress. I assume the full House will follow up with such a citation on a party-line vote. Democrats have demanded that Barr produce the full, unredacted Mueller Report, perhaps on the theory that there must be a pony in there somewhere–if you remember the old joke–but more likely, simply to distract attention from the booming economy.
Barr says that because it is illegal to disseminate grand jury testimony without the consent of the witnesses, he cannot legally comply with the Democrats’ demands. This position appears to be correct. In any event, I have not seen any attempt at a coherent response to it.
The Democrats’ move is exclusively political. It has no practical consequences. It does remind us, however, that the first Attorney General to be cited for contempt of Congress was Eric Holder. In that case, Congressional Republicans were trying to get documents relating to the Fast and Furious scandal. Unlike today’s vote, the House’s vote to find Holder in contempt was bipartisan, with 17 Democrats joining the Republicans in the vote to hold Holder in criminal contempt. (21 Democrats voted to hold him in civil contempt.) Because of Holder’s stonewalling, Congress never did get to the bottom of the Fast and Furious gun-running fiasco.
In that long-ago era of 2012, Democrats had a very different view of the merits of holding an Attorney General in contempt. Nancy Pelosi termed the contempt motion “ridiculous,” and said “It’s not only to monopolize [Holder’s] time, it’s to undermine his name.” Adam Schiff: “We ought to be thinking about what this does to the future relationship between the two branches of government and how the subpoena power is used and how it is abused. But, unfortunately, here I think it has become now a completely political exercise.” Elijah Cummings: “You accused him of a cover-up for protecting documents that he was prohibited by law from producing. You claimed that he — and I quote — ‘obstructed’ — end of quote — the committee’s work by complying with federal statutes passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president of the United States.”
There is another difference between the two contempt votes. I did a Google search for “Holder contempt Congress.” It returned 2,520,000 results. Next I searched for “Barr contempt Congress,” and got 46,900,000 results: a 19 to 1 ratio. Is anyone surprised?