Democrats have lashed Attorney General William Pelham Barr to the horns of a dilemma: He must choose either to violate or to obey federal law, and then await the consequences.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York and other Democrats subpoenaed Barr for a pristine copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russiagate report, complete with grand-jury testimony. Barr did not budge. The committee then voted 24–16 Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.
Alas for Barr, he is bound by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 6(e)(2)(b)(vi)states: “Unless these rules provide otherwise, the following persons must not disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury ... an attorney for the government.” Even more ominous, under Rule 6(e)(7), “A knowing violation of Rule 6 ... may be punished as a contempt of court.”
So, if Barr fails to deliver Mueller’s untouched findings, the full House will vote him in contempt of Congress, “when we’re ready,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., threatened Thursday. But if he caves under Democratic pressure, a federal judge could rule him in contempt of court.
Contempt of Congress or contempt of court? Barr is like a restaurant patron staring at a menu with just two choices: arsenic salad or cream of cyanide.