United States Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, posted online via DocumentCloud, in which Barr appeared to be provoking Congress into commencing impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.
The letter came in response to Nadler’s demand that Barr provide Congress with a full, non-redacted version of the Mueller report — the 448-page document in which Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller details the findings of his 22-month investigation into links between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, as well as possible obstruction of justice by Trump. The Mueller report, with the redactions imposed by Barr, has been posted online by The New York Times.
In the letter, Barr refuses Nadler’s demand for the unreacted Mueller report. But in the text of the letter, Barr chides Nadler for failing to “identify any available legal basis” for the Justice Department to release the portions of the report that were blacked out because they contained information from grand jury proceedings, which under the law are kept secret — except in certain cases outlined in an April decision by the District of Columbia federal Court of Appeals, posted online by Lawfare.
In that decision, McKeever vs. Barr, the court ruled that grand jury proceedings could be made public only if the were somehow related to a “judicial proceeding,” according to Lawfare.
While routine congressional oversight hearings likely do not count as a “judicial proceeding,” actual impeachment hearings would indeed fall under that label, according to a Politico analysis. In other words, initiating impeachment may be the only way to force Barr to hand over the full, unreacted Mueller report.
But Democratic leaders in Congress have been consistently attempting to avoid starting the impeachment process against Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in March flatly dismissed the idea of impeaching Trump, telling The Washington Post, “He’s just not worth it,” even though she also expressed her view that Trump in “unfit” to hold the nation’s highest office.
On Tuesday, the day after Barr sent his letter, Pelosi complained that Trump actually wanted Democrats to begin impeachment because starting the proceedings that could, in theory, end with Trump’s removal from office would generate a political backlash that could help Trump and damage Democrats, according to CNN.
“Trump is goading us to impeach him,” Pelosi said on Tuesday.
“That’s what he’s doing. Every single day, he’s just like taunting, taunting, taunting because he knows that it would be very divisive in the country, but he doesn’t really care. He just wants to solidify his base.”