WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives will vote on a resolution Tuesday to authorize courts to enforce subpoenas against Attorney General Bill Barr and former White House counsel Don McGhan.
Although House Judiciary Democrats decided Monday not to go forward with a criminal contempt charge against Barr after the Justice Department agreed to release key documents related to the Mueller report, this move against Barr and McGhan is a move just short of an official civil contempt charge.
Democrats want McGhan to testify despite McGhan’s 30 hours of testimony before Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team. The White House, though, has invoked executive privilege to keep McGhan from testifying before Congress or turning over any documents.
“This empowers the Judiciary Committee to go to court to enforce its subpoenas and enforce its orders and it empowers every other committee chair in Congress to do the exact same thing,” Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin told reporters Tuesday. “This is not a direct finding of contempt but it authorizes and empowers the judiciary and the other committees to go to court to enforce their orders.”
According to Raskin should Barr or McGhan not comply with court orders, then an actual civil contempt charge would be the ultimate remedy.
Why are Democrats avoiding a civil contempt vote and opting, instead, for a resolution with a similar parliamentary power but is not technically a contempt charge?
“Essentially, we’re trying to develop a categorical approach to the whole thing and, rather than find each recalcitrant executive branch official in contempt and go through a process, we empower the committees to do it on their own,” Raskin said.
He added, “So each committee would have the power to say, “You’re in contempt of our committee and we’re going to go to court to get an order to do it,’ rather than working our way through the floor every single time.”