What does this mean for Barr and the Trump administration?
Earlier this year, the full House voted to hold Barr in civil contempt, giving the House Judiciary Committee broader powers to retrieve information and documents that Barr has withheld, including the unredacted Mueller report.
The recent House vote to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt has limited practical significance because the contempt citation would be enforced by the Department of Justice, the very department that Barr oversees, making a criminal prosecution unlikely. But it is a powerfully symbolic step. Barr’s reputation as a civil servant is now permanently marred by multiple contempt citations.
Inherent contempt, while once fairly common, hasn’t been used since 1935, when William MacCracken, a former member of President Herbert Hoover’s administration, was arrested and held under a warrant after he declined to appear before the Senate.
It is illegal to obstruct Congress’s constitutional duty to pass laws, conduct investigations, and oversee the Executive Branch. Over and over again, Barr has chosen to protect Donald Trump rather than uphold the law. The House is fully within its rights to hold Barr in civil and criminal contempt. Contempt sends a strong message to the Trump administration that open defiance of congressional subpoenas and congressional oversight is unacceptable.