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DOJ Refuses To Hold Barr, Ross In Contempt. Here's Why.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The Department of Justice on Wednesday informed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) they would not hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for failing to produce documents related to Congressional subpoenas.


According to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, the author of Wednesday's letter, said federal courts realized the sensitivity of documents relating to the Trump administration's decision to ask a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The documents were privileged, meaning they couldn't be used in civil litigation. 

Despite that, the Oversight Committee received roughly 30,000 pages of documents relating to the policy decision.

"The Department of Justice's long-standing position is that we will not prosecute an official for contempt of Congress for declining to provide information subject to a presidential assertion of executive privilege," Rosen wrote. "Across administrations of both parties, we have consistently adhered to the position that 'the contempt of Congress statute was not intended to apply and could not constitutionally be applied to an Executive Branch official who asserts the President's claim of executive privilege.'"


Rosen cites multiple other instances where Department of Justice officials were not held in contempt for failing to respond to Congressional subpoenas. The most recent example was when the Republican-controlled House attempted to hold then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to to comply with Congressional subpoenas related to Fast and Furious, the gunrunning case that left Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry dead.

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