In a letter sent Tuesday night to committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., after negotiations between the committee lawyers and Justice Department over accessing redacted portions of the report, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd called the panel's continued demands for materials "unreasonable" and urged them to delay Wednesday's scheduled vote to initiate the contempt process.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says in a statement that: "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". Short of that, there are legal restrictions concerning how much of the report can be released to the public.
Wednesday's developments come as a battle between House Democrats and the Trump administration intensifies.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, the panel's chairman, said Barr's refusal to comply with the requests of United States lawmakers amounted to a "constitutional crisis".
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters that for the Trump administration to assert executive privilege now that the Mueller probe has run its course is "laughable, it's frivolous, and it has no basis in reality".
The White House assertion of privilege represents the latest collision between Trump and House Democrats, who have seen their investigations of the president blocked at every turn. Trump has sought to block aides and former staffers from cooperating with a number of congressional investigations looking into the president's behaviour and finances.
Democrats condemned the White House action.
In his letter to the President, Barr explained that "although the subpoenaed materials assuredly include categories of information within the scope of executive privilege", they may not all be protected by the privilege, and that ultimate determination will likely be for a federal judge to decide.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Democrats were surprised by the department's decision as last-minute talks failed.
Pelosi referenced McConnell's remarks earlier in the morning where he argued that it's time to move on from Mueller's investigation and report, declaring "case closed".
"There's this outrage industrial complex that spans from Capitol press conferences to cable news", McConnell said Tuesday. The White House has rejected all efforts to probe Trump's business dealings or tax returns as well the West Wing's security clearance procedure.
The last attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress was Eric Holder in 2012 during the Obama administration.
But Doug Collins, a leading Republican on the committee, said Democrats were acting out of anger and fear "without any valid legislative reason". In point of fact, Trump's claim of executive privilege have less to do with royal ambitions than the fact that the executive is a separate and co-equal branch of government answerable to voters, and not operating at the pleasure of Congress. When Sanders says the Democrats want a redo of the Mueller investigation, she's certainly on to something. If the House were to pass the resolution, it would send a criminal referral to the USA lawyer for the District of Columbia, a Justice Department official who is likely to defend the Attorney-General.
Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice could not clear Trump, according to a redacted version of the special counsel's report released last month.
Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer later released a statement criticizing the Senate's top Republican over his statement.