Nadler acknowledges AG Barr subpoena 'overbroad', offers to meet 'without conditions'

Hours after the Department of Justice (DOJ) slammed House Democrats for planning a contempt vote against Attorney General Bill Barr -- and charged that Democrats had privately admitted their subpoena requests were "overbroad" -- House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler announced late Tuesday that he is open to negotiating with the DOJ "without conditions."

The remarkable turn of events reopened the possibility that Barr's contempt vote may be postponed or canceled, if both sides return to the negotiating table. Nadler, however, pointedly refused to cancel the planned contempt vote prior to beginning any new negotiations, as the DOJ had demanded.

At the same time, Nadler criticized what he called DOJ "brinksmanship," and blamed the Justice Department for purportedly cutting off negotiations on May 7.

The brouhaha began Tuesday morning with a DOJ letter, written by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, that blasted House Democrats and Nadler, D-N.Y., for announcing they would vote next week on whether to hold Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt.

In its letter to Nadler, the DOJ publicly revealed that Democrats had acknowledged in a May 24 letter they were open to "further negotiations" regarding concerns that their subpoena demands were "unworkably overbroad." Nevertheless, Democrats announced just days later their plans to hold Barr in contempt for allegedly failing to comply with those demands.

The DOJ said it was "prepared to resume negotiations with the committee regarding accommodation of its narrowed Subpoena" -- as long as Democrats removed the "threat of an imminent vote by the House of Representatives to hold the attorney general in contempt."

"The department was disappointed by the committee's abrupt termination of ongoing negotiations aimed at reaching a reasonable accommodation that respects both sides' legitimate interests regarding the materials sought," Boyd wrote to Nadler. "Further, the department is disappointed by news reports indicating that Democratic leaders have scheduled a contempt vote in the House of Representatives for June 11, 2019."

In his response late Tuesday, Nadler took issue with the DOJ's characterization of Democrats' May 24 letter, and insisted that Democrats had "always remained open to continuing negotiations. ... We are here and ready to negotiate as early as tomorrow morning."

"I ... take exception to your characterization of how our prior accommodation efforts ended," Nadler wrote back to Boyd. "Contrary to the account in your letter, the Committee has always remained open to continuing negotiations. We had an offer on the table late on the evening of May 7 when the Department suddenly declared an end to the accommodation process. My staff was still in their offices after the close of business hours awaiting a counteroffer when the Department broke off negotiations with a letter demanding that the contempt vote—scheduled to begin the next day— be cancelled if we wished to proceed with the accommodations process."

Nadler continued: "At any rate, we are ready to proceed without conditions—as shown by the initiative we took with our detailed May 24 offer. I should add that, contrary to your argument that the Committee’s continuing accommodation efforts somehow suggest that our prior requests were overbroad, our offer to compromise was intended to respond to your prior objections by seeking a middle ground.  We urge the Department to do the same."


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