Justice Department Won’t Prosecute Barr, Ross After Criminal Contempt Vote

Attorney General William Barr appears at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives passed a measure supporting their recent investigations of the Trump administration even as the Justice Department informed lawmakers Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will not be charged after being held in criminal contempt for defying congressional subpoenas.

In a two-page letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said the Justice Department would not bring charges against either cabinet secretary. The House voted last week to hold both men in criminal contempt for not complying with a subpoena for information on the Trump administration’s efforts to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

President Donald Trump had asserted executive privilege over the documents sought by the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

The Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against Barr and Ross was expected and mirrors what the agency did under President Barack Obama, after the House held then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt in 2012.

“Consistent with this long-standing position and uniform practice, the department has determined that the responses by the attorney general and the secretary of commerce to the subpoenas issued by the Committee on Oversight and Reform did not constitute a crime and accordingly the department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the attorney general or the secretary,” Rosen wrote.

What is next for the subpoena effort is unclear, but the matter will likely end up in federal court much like during the fight between Holder and the Republican-controlled Congress over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal.

Wednesday’s letter from the Justice Department came as the House formally voted to support the subpoenas and investigations launched by various committee chairs against the Trump administration, White House officials and the president himself.

The measure expressing lawmakers’ support for the investigations was buried in a rule the House passed Wednesday afternoon that allowed for the consideration of two pieces of legislation.

The resolution, offered by Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md., states the House “ratifies and affirms all current and future investigations, as well as all subpoenas previously issued or to be issued in the future, by any standing or permanent select committee of the House.”

Politico reported House Democrats decided to include the language at the recommendation of House counsel Doug Letter. It comes in response to a question Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee on the D.C. Circuit, in a fight over a subpoena regarding Trump’s finances asking why the full House had not signed off on the probe.

The House agreed to the rule including the resolution on a 234-195 vote Wednesday afternoon.

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