President Trump asserted executive privilege Wednesday, moving to block House Democrats from trying to get the full unredacted report and supporting evidence compiled by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Justice Department alerted the House to the move in a letter, saying it was left no choice.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd said there are some materials in the report he cannot legally turn over, and said once negotiations with Democrats broke down, executive privilege was the only option.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also weighed in, blaming Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s “unlawful and reckless demands” for forcing the matter.
“Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the attorney general’s request, the president has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,” Ms. Sanders said.
Mr. Boyd, in his letter, described the assertion as an interim step, saying the president will eventually make a final determination about all of the materials.
The letter was released even as the Judiciary Committee began to debate holding Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to meet a Monday deadline for turning the information over.
Mr. Barr has already released a somewhat redacted version of the Mueller report publicly, and has made a less-redacted version available to Mr. Nadler and 11 other members of Congress.
The only information shielded in that less-redacted report is information Mr. Mueller obtained through grand jury proceedings, which by law are required to be kept secret.
Mr. Nadler and fellow Democrats have refused to review the less-redacted report, saying they won’t let Mr. Barr dictate the terms of their investigations.
Both sides had said earlier this week they were looking toward a compromise, but negotiations broke down Tuesday night.
Mr. Boyd, in his letter Wednesday, said Mr. Nadler’s contempt vote was “premature”
Mr. Nadler, though, cast the fight as testing the very powers of Congress.
“This is unprecedented. If allowed to go unchecked this obstruction means the end of congressional oversight,” the New York Democrat said as he opened the obstruction debate.
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