House Democrats could be making a mistake if they pursue their contempt claims against Attorney General William P. Barr, a prominent law professor warned Wednesday.
Speaking at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on executive privilege, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, told members their case against Mr. Barr is weak.
The committee last week took the first step toward holding Mr. Barr in contempt for defying a congressional subpoena seeking special counsel Robert Mueller’s “full unreacted”report. But the report is littered with grand jury information, also known as “6E” material that cannot be released under federal law.
A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Court put further restrictions on the release of such material. The case, McKeever v. Barr, holds that courts do not have an inherent authority to release grand jury materials.
“If you take a look at the McKeever case, which was just handed down by the D.C. Circuit, you are heading into a world of hurt if you go into the D.C. Circuit and argue that it could order Barr to unilaterally release 6E information,” Mr. Turley said.
Mr. Turley said the effort to hold Mr. Barr in contempt could backfire on Congress, resulting in a decision that could limit its investigative authority.
“I encourage you not to push that button because my guess is that it will create new precedent, and you wouldn’t like it,” he said.
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