After the House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress — a historic step — Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) spoke to reporters and made clear the matter wasn’t a petty dispute. Barr and the Trump administration’s refusal to comply with Congress’s requests are straining the country’s form of governance, he argued.
“We’ve talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis,” he said. “We’re now in it.”
He added: “Now is the time of testing whether we can keep a republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of govt. We must resist this.”
The inter-branch conflict has centered on the committees in the House — which is controlled by the Democrats — and their requests for information from the administration. Nadler said that President Donald Trump had refused to hand over a single sheet of paper that has been requested, and the president has declared publicly that the executive branch will resist all subpoenas.
This is a radical departure from past practice. While administrations have always found ways to resist some oversight, they do not outright refuse all requests from Congress and undermine its role as a check on the executive. These conflicts will inevitably end up in court, where the strength of the constitutional system will further be tested.
Watch the clip of Nadler’s comments below: