Constitutional Conflict: House Votes in Contempt, DOJ Threatens Executive Privilege

The ongoing struggle between the irresistible Democratic House and the immovable Republican presidency escalated again Tuesday. Along party lines, the House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr, and former White House Counsel Don McGahn, in civil contempt of Congress. In response, the Justice Department threatened to invoke Executive Privilege to block House access to documents pertaining to the U.S. Census. It’s the latest skirmish in a conflict that has consumed the capitol and paralyzed policymaking.

“Or Else What?” The Limits of Checks and Balances

America’s founding fathers were wise in many respects. They were revolutionary in setting up a republic, based on the separation of powers and a system of checks and balances. One even presciently warned against the mischief of factions. What they did not foresee was two nationalized factions paralyzing government, a viable means of resolving disputes between elections, and an answer to “or else what?” should one branch refuse to comply with the demands of the other.

No Holds BARRed on Capitol Hill

It’s been an eventful week, to say the least, for U.S. Attorney General William Barr. On Tuesday, special counsel Robert Mueller was revealed to have sent Barr a letter strongly objecting to the AG’s characterization of the report’s findings. The next day, Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the report. By Thursday, the Attorney General skipped his scheduled hearing before the House Judiciary Committee over a disagreement about whether staff, rather than elected members, could question him.