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U.S. House Judiciary Committee Tries To Resolve Dispute on Holding Barr in Contempt

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says it is time for lawmakers to move on from the Russia investigation.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., gavels in a hearing on the Mueller report without witness Attorney General William Barr who refused to appear, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2019. VOA

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee is proceeding Wednesday with its consideration of whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress over the Justice Department’s refusal to provide an unredacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation of Russian election interference.

Committee leaders and Justice Department officials met Tuesday to try to resolve the
dispute, but the two sides each issued statements late in the day indicating they remained far apart.

In short, the Justice Department threatened to request that President Donald Trump invoke executive privilege over the materials the committee asked for in its subpoena, if it goes ahead with the contempt vote Wednesday.

Nadler responded by saying the Justice Department’s legal arguments lack credibility or legal basis, and further accused it of conducting “dangerous” obstruction.

FILE - Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., right, speaks with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., center, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, at the Capitol in Washington.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., right, speaks with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., center, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, at the Capitol in Washington. VOA

​The Justice Department’s positions came in the form of a letter to Nadler from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd who accused Nadler’s committee of making “unreasonable demands” and provoking “an unnecessary conflict between our respective branches of government.”

Boyd said the Justice Department had acted within the law and regulations by offering a copy of the Mueller report “with as few redactions as possible,” but said committee leaders escalated the dispute by demanding all committee members be allowed to review that version, something he said would “risk violating court orders” in some ongoing cases.

Boyd asked Nadler to put the Mueller report subpoena on hold for now and to delay Wednesday’s contempt vote.

Nadler in his statement said the White House had long ago waived its executive privilege over the materials requested in the subpoena, which include not only the full Mueller report but also the underlying documents from the investigation of Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, and whether the president obstructed justice.

“The Department’s decision reflects President Trump’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties,” Nadler said. “I expect that Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless administration. The Committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover up.”

If the Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee approves the contempt citation for the attorney general, it would be taken up by the full House of Representatives. In theory, someone held in contempt could eventually be tried and, if convicted, face up to a year in prison. The Justice Department rarely pursues such referrals from Congress.

Nadler’s committee is also considering whether to hold Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel, in contempt of Congress if he refuses to testify before the committee later this month about the Mueller probe.

McGahn on Tuesday refused to comply with a subpoena for documents related to the investigation. The White House had demanded he ignore the subpoena, and his lawyer said the documents were property of the White House and as such McGahn had no right to them.

Nadler rejected that argument, saying the White House had also not invoked executive privilege over those materials.

House Democrats are pushing for Mueller to testify about his handling of the investigation.

Barr has said he had no objection to letting Mueller testify before Congress about his investigation. But Trump on Sunday changed his mind, saying, “Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!” No agreement has been reached for Mueller’s testimony.

Barr last month released a redacted copy of the Mueller report, with the prosecutor concluding neither Trump nor his campaign colluded with Russia, but reached no conclusion whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice during the 22-month investigation. Barr decided the findings did not warrant obstruction charges against the president.

Donald Trump
In short, the Justice Department threatened to request that President Donald Trump invoke executive privilege over the materials the committee asked for in its subpoena, if it goes ahead with the contempt vote Wednesday. VOA

In an online statement under the name DOJ Alumni, more than 700 former federal prosecutors, so far, who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations said evidence Mueller uncovered would have resulted in obstruction charges against Trump, were it not for the long-standing Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be charged with a criminal offense.

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says it is time for lawmakers to move on from the Russia investigation.

Also Read: New York Times Report Claims, Donald Trump’s Businesses Lost More Than $1 Billion During Early 90’s

“Case closed,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. McConnell derided what he said was the “outrage industrial complex” of Democrats and television news show pundits over special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that Trump did not collude with Russians to help him win.

“The investigation went on for two years,” he said. “It’s finally over.”

Top Democratic leaders immediately disputed McConnell. Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer called McConnell’s remarks “an astounding bit of whitewashing,” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “That’s just not a fact. The case is not closed.” (VOA)

Next Story

2019 Was a Year of Climate Change Activism

Hungary Climate Protest
Following the call of Fridays For Future Hungary and Extinction Rebellion Hungary young environmentalists demonstrate to demand measures against climate change in Budapest, Hungary. VOA

By Jamie Dettmer

2019 was the year of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and an uptick in climate action pledges by governments across the globe.

From Britain to Germany, Europe’s mainstream party leaders scrambled to respond to a surge in electoral support for Green parties — and to growing public anxiety about the possible impact of climate change.

During European Parliament elections in June, 48 percent of voters identified climate change as their top worry. Opinion polls in Germany for some weeks of 2019 put the Greens ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s storied Christian Democratic Party, which, along with its junior partner in the country’s governing coalition, has been racing to sharpen climate policies.

Greta Thunberg climate
15-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg holds a placard reading “School strike for the climate” during a manifestation against climate change outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, Sweden. VOA

British move

In Britain, the ruling Conservatives announced a hugely ambitious carbon reduction plan, enshrining into law a pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, making Britain the first major economy to do so. Some smaller countries, including Finland and Norway, are earmarking dates earlier than 2050 to become net-zero greenhouse gas producers, but so far have not made their goals legally binding.

In America, an alliance of 24 states and Puerto Rico promised to uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate action, despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the international pact.

Shouldn’t all these plans and pledges be music to ears of climate action activists and scientists?

Apparently not. On the eve of Christmas, Thunberg tweeted: “I hear many say 2019 was the year when the public woke up to the climate crisis. This is a misconception. A small but rapidly growing number of people have started to wake up to the climate crisis. This has only just begun. We’re still only scratching the surface.”

For Thunberg, her guardians and loyalists, change can’t come fast enough, however wrenching and dislocating it might be. Governments aren’t doing enough and are failing to count their emissions accurately, they complain, and corporations are dragging their feet.

For activists, December’s Madrid climate change conference epitomized the foot-dragging and a failure to be truly aspirational in cutting emissions. For Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion activists in Britain and Australia, the key task for the Madrid gathering was to unveil ambitious new goals — and fossil-fuel-dependent countries, notably Brazil and Australia, flunked it, they say.

The COP 25 conference center is seen in Madrid. VOA

Rich vs. poor

The rift between wealthy, developed nations and poorer, developing nations over who is going to pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions also remained as wide as ever. And governments in Madrid stalled on agreeing on new regulations for carbon markets and the trading of carbon permits between countries for the offsetting of emissions, one of the most critical and contentious issues at the climate change conference.

“In Madrid, the key polluting countries responsible for 80 percent of the world’s climate-wrecking emissions stood mute, while smaller countries announced they’ll work to drive down harmful emissions in the coming year,” said Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based climate action advocacy group. “World leaders dithered instead of taking stronger, critical action soon to reduce the global climate threat. They ignored dire scientific reports, worsening evidence of climate destruction and demands from millions of young people to protect their future.”

For others, though, the Madrid conference symbolized how politically complicated it will be to deliver climate action — a complexity activists ignore and glide over, some analysts warn. The venue for the conference itself spoke to that. The meeting was scheduled to be held in Chile, but it had to be switched to Spain because of riots in the Latin American country over a “Green” hike in transit fares.

And it wasn’t only in Chile that protesters were taking to the streets to complain about expensive Green policies that could make living standards plunge. In France, the Yellow Vests, drawn mainly from small towns, persisted with their demonstrations against the government of French President Emmanuel Macron, an agitation triggered initially by the imposition of higher eco-taxes on fuel.

The year 2019 also saw strong resistance in Germany from motorists, as a well as automakers, to planned higher fuel prices and an abrupt shift to electric cars — yet another front in a political backlash to climate action.

Climate Europe Coal
Smoke rises from chimneys of the Turow power plant located by the Turow lignite coal mine near the town of Bogatynia, Poland. VOA

Tricky politics

For governments, even environmentally friendly ones, climate change poses a massive political dilemma, and 2019 brought that home. Impose the tax hikes and costly regulations scientists say are needed to lower emissions and move economies away from dependency on fossil fuels, and governments risk prompting a backlash, largely from lower-income workers and pensioners, who can ill afford to bear the expense.

The alternative is to move slowly and risk blowback from climate action activists and their supporters among largely middle class and higher-income groups able to adapt with less hardship. Squaring the circle between those who demand fast-track climate-friendly measures and those who want to slow down and mitigate the impact of moving toward a low-carbon future isn’t going to be easy, say analysts.

In Europe, Central European governments sense the acute political danger to them and have been resisting a European Union plan to join Britain in earmarking 2050 as the year the bloc has to be “net zero.”

Poland has been especially vociferous in opposition. The country is heavily dependent on coal for its energy needs and more than a quarter-million Polish jobs are tied to the fossil fuel industry. Without coal, many towns in Poland will have no economic raison d’être. “You can’t expect Poland to leap to zero carbon in 30 years,” according to Marchin Nowak, a coal industry executive.

Also Read- Just 1 Dose of the HPV Vaccine May Prevent Infection: Study

While smaller developing countries fret that they will bear too much of the burden of climate action compared with richer nations, so, too, do those who already feel left behind in developed countries, fearing the costs and benefits of climate action will be unfairly placed on their shoulders. 2019 saw the opening salvos in this new political war over environmentalism. (VOA)