The White House is invoking executive privilege, reserving the right to block the full release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia probe, escalating President Donald Trump's battle with Congress.
The administration's decision was announced just as the House Judiciary Committee was gaveling in to consider holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress over failure to release the report. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York declared the action by Trump's Justice Department was a clear new sign of the president's "blanket defiance" of Congress' constitutional rights.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the action was rather a response to the "blatant abuse of power" by Democratic Rep. Nadler. "Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler's unlawful and reckless demands," she said.
Nadler said earlier Wednesday the Trump administration's refusal to provide special counsel Robert Mueller's full Russia report to Congress presents a "constitutional crisis," leaving the panel no choice but to move forward with a contempt vote against Barr, who released a redacted version of Mueller's report to the public last month. Democrats said they want to see the full document, along with underlying evidence, and subpoenaed the full report.
The department has rejected that demand, while allowing a handful of lawmakers to view a version of Mueller's report with fewer redactions. Democrats have said they won't view that version until they get broader access. It was not immediately clear how the claim of privilege would work with respect to Mueller's report, since it has already been released to the public in redacted form. Executive privilege is the president's power to keep information from the courts, Congress and the public to protect the confidentiality of the Oval Office decision-making process.
With files from the Associated Press
Harry Litman, former U.S. Attorney and deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department under President Clinton; professor of constitutional law at UCLA and UC San Diego; he tweets @harrylitman
Barry McDonald, professor of law at Pepperdine University, his focus includes constitutional law
William Yeatman, a research fellow in the Cato Institute, where he works on administrative law, constitutional structure, and regulatory reform.
Tamara Keith, NPR White House Correspondent and co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast