Trump renews attacks on Omar, praises ‘send her back’ crowd

After attempting to distance himself, Trump calls crowd that chanted ‘send her back’ at a campaign rally ‘incredible’.Trump answers a question from the news media about Ilhan Omar [Leah Millis/Reuters]

Trump answers a question from the news media about Ilhan Omar

A day after Donald Trump tried to distance himself from racist chants heard at one of his campaign rallies, the US president praised the crowd as one full of “incredible patriots”.

The president on Friday again ramped up his attacks against US Representative Ilhan Omar, saying he was “unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can hate our country”.

He also said the people at the North Carolina rally, many of whom chanted “Send her back” while Trump paused, are “incredible people” and “incredible patriots”.

On Thursday, however, Trump attempted to distance himself from the same crowd, saying he wasn’t “happy with” the chant and he disagreed with it. He falsely said he tried to stop the crowd.

His comments came just days after he attacked Omar and three other minority congresswomen – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley – in a series of racist tweets in which he told the four women to go back to where they came from. All four are United States citizens and all but Omar were born in the US. Omar came to the country as a Somali refugee when she was 12 years old.

On Thursday, Omar called Trump “fascist” and said she was “not deterred” and “not frightened”.

“We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us. We are not deterred. We are not frightened,” she told a crowd of supporters who greeted her as she arrived in her home state of Minnesota.

After the tweets, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives condemned Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimised and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of colour”.

‘Not deterred’: A defiant Ilhan Omar vows to fight Trump

Trump maintains his comments were “not racist”. He said that those who are not happy in the US can leave, despite Trump himself having repeatedly spoken out against past US policies and administrations.

Many have come to Omar’s defence under #IStandWithIlhan.

‘Millions of American in danger’

Responding to Trump’s racist tweets earlier this week, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley said they “will not be silenced“. They also said that as “the squad” they would continue to put the focus back on the issues they feel need attention, including immigration, healthcare and education.

“This is simply a disruption, a distraction from the callous, chaotic and corrupt culture of this administration,” Pressley said on Tuesday. “We want to get to the business of the American people and why were sent here: reducing the costs of prescription drugs, addressing the public health crisis and epidemic that is gun violence, addressing the racial wealth gap and yes, making sure that families stay together.

U.S. Reps Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn Pres
US Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib hold a news conference after Democrats in the US Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump’s racist attacks [Erin Scott/Reuters]

Ocasio-Cortez warned on Thursday that Trump’s attacks “put millions of Americans in danger”.

“This is not just about threats to individual members of Congress, but it is about creating a volatile environment in this country through violent rhetoric that puts anyone, like Ilhan, anyone who believes in the rights of all people in danger and I think that he has a responsibility for that environment,” she said.

After Trump tweeted an edited video to suggest Omar was dismissive of the September 11, 2001, attacks earlier this year, the congresswoman reported an increase in death threats.

In April, a US man was arrested on suspicion of leaving racist, homophobic and Islamophobic messages filled with death threats on the voicemails of several Democratic members of Congress, including Tlaib.

 

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Amash first Republican legislator to call for Trump’s impeachment

In a series of tweets, legislator Justin Amash says the US president has engaged in ‘impeachable conduct’.

Amash first Republican legislator to call for Trump's impeachment
Amash sent a series of tweets, faulting Trump and Attorney General William Barr over Mueller’s report 

Republican legislator Justin Amash has said he believes Donald Trump has engaged in “impeachable conduct”, becoming the first politician from his party to call for removing the US president.

The Michigan representative on Saturday also accused Attorney General William Barr of “deliberately” misleading the public over the actual content and tenor of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference aimed at tipping the election to Trump.

WATCH

The Mueller report: Can Trump be impeached?

In a series of tweets, Amash – a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus – said “few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report,” which identified “multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice”.

“Undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence,” he posted.

“Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behaviour that met the threshold for impeachment.”

Justin Amash

@justinamash

Here are my principal conclusions:
1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
4. Few members of Congress have read the report.

Amash’s comments went even further than those by most Democratic leaders in Congress.

Fellow Michigan legislator Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, urged Amash to co-sponsor her impeachment resolution.

“@justinamash come find me in 1628 Longworth. I’ve got an impeachment investigation resolution you’re going to want to cosponsor,” she wrote in response to Amash’s thread.

Trump has proclaimed he was fully exonerated by Mueller’s report.

But some Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate who has called for impeachment proceedings, argue that the document lays out multiple occasions in which the president may have obstructed justice.

What is US impeachment? Six things to know

Other senior Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have cautioned against such a move, stressing it could deeply divide the nation of about 325 million people.

These Democrats warn it could backfire politically in the run-up to the 2020 election, especially with the Republican-controlled Senate likely to acquit the president in the event of impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Marlen Ochoa-Lopez murder: Chicago police make three arrests

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks during a press conference at Chicago police headquarters about the arrest of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett on February 21, 2019 in Chicago, IllinoisChicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called the murder of Ms Ochoa-Lopez “disgusting and thoroughly disturbing”

Three people have been charged over the murder of a nine months-pregnant teenager whose baby was then cut from her body.

Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, 19, disappeared on 23 April. Her body was found three weeks later on 15 May.

Her baby remains “in grave condition”, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and her daughter Desiree Figueroa, 24, have been charged with her murder.

Clarisa Figueroa’s partner Piotr Bobak, 40, was charged with concealment of a homicide.

Detectives say they were first alerted to Clarisa Figueroa on 7 May – two weeks after Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s disappearance – when friends of the teen directed police to her Facebook account where she had made arrangements with Ms Figueroa to pick up baby clothes.

Police allege that Ms Figueroa then lured Ms Ochoa-Lopez inside her home and, with the help of her daughter, strangled the 19-year-old with a cable. Once Ms Ochoa-Lopez had died, her baby was forcibly removed from her womb.

“Words really cannot express how disgusting and thoroughly disturbing these allegations are,” Supt Johnson said.

That same day, Ms Figueroa called paramedics to her home, in the south-west of Chicago, claiming her newborn baby was not breathing.

Ms Figueroa later started a GoFundMe campaign that she claimed was for the funeral of her dying baby, a spokeswoman for Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s family told AP news agency.

Subsequent DNA tests revealed that Ms Ochoa-Lopez was the baby’s mother.

Desiree Figueroa confessed to helping her mother strangle Ms Ochoa-Lopezwith a cable, CBS reported.

Presentational white spacePolice said Ms Ochoa-Lopez had met Clarisa Figueroa previously and had conducted prior exchanges of baby clothes.

On Thursday, Supt Johnson expressed his condolences to Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s family in the wake of her “brutal” murder.

“They should be celebrating the birth of a young baby,” he said. “Instead, they’re mourning the loss of the mother and possibly that young child.”

The three suspects are to appear in court on Friday.

What is US impeachment? Six things to know

How does it work? Which presidents have been impeached? What do Americans think? A guide to the US impeachment process.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater [Evan Vucci/AP Photo]
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater

As the confrontation between US President Donald Trump and Democrats over Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia report intensifies, talk of impeachment has continued to swirl around Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has so far resisted calls to begin impeachment proceedings. Instead, House committees are aggressively investigating Trump, a Republican, through subpoenas of witnesses and documents.

In an April 22 letter to fellow Democratic politicians, Pelosi urged restraint and patience, insisting that it is “important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings”.

She repeated that sentiment on Thursday, saying Democrats will take a step-by-step approach. “We won’t go any faster than the facts take us or any slower,” she said.

But she did say that as Trump continues to stonewall congressional investigations, he is “becoming self-impeachable”.

Trump and his supporters argue the Mueller investigation into the president and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is “case-closed”.

Despite the top Democrats’ effort to tamp down impeachment talk, several Democrats, including some 2020 presidential contenders, want the House to start impeachment proceedings.

Here’s what you need to know about the US impeachment:

1. What is impeachment in the US political system?

The founders of the United States included impeachment in the US Constitution as an option for removal of presidents by Congress.

Top House Democrat agrees US faces ‘constitutional crisis’

Impeachment, a concept in English common law, was one of the more hotly debated points during the constitutional convention of 1787 in Philadelphia. Delegates agreed that presidents could be removed if found guilty by Congress of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

Sole authority under the Constitution to bring articles of impeachment is vested in the House of Representatives where proceedings can begin in the Judiciary Committee. If the House approves articles of impeachment, or “impeaches” a president, he or she would then be subject to trial in the US Senate.

2. On what grounds can a president be impeached? How does impeachment work?

Under the Constitution, the president, vice president and “all civil officers of the United States” can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

To begin impeachment proceedings, a House member can introduce an impeachment resolution, or the entire House can vote to initiate an investigation into whether there are grounds for impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee or a special committee will then investigate. The panel votes on whether to bring a vote to the full House. Impeachment in the 435-member House must be approved with a simple majority.

Post-Mueller: Can Trump block witnesses, access to documents?

If the House votes to impeach, the matter moves to the Senate, where a trial is held. The chief justice of the US Supreme Court presides over the trial.

A two-thirds majority vote is required in the 100-member Senate to convict and remove a president from office.

The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. At least 20 Republicans would have to vote with all Democrats and the two independents to remove the president.

3. Which presidents have been impeached?

Only two US presidents have ever been successfully impeached and in neither instance was the president removed from office. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 in the tumultuous aftermath of the American Civil War; and Bill Clinton in 1998 for issues including his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Both times, the House approved formal charges and impeached the president, only to have the Senate fail to convict and remove him.

The House Judiciary Committee in 1974 voted to recommend impeachment accusing another president, Richard Nixon, of planning to obstruct an investigation in the Watergate scandal. Before the full House could vote on impeachment, Nixon became the only US president ever to resign.

4. Who would become president if Trump was impeached and removed? What would happen to Trump?

A Senate conviction that removed Trump from office would automatically elevate Vice President Mike Pence to become president, completing Trump’s term, which ends on January 20, 2021.

Top House Democrat agrees US faces ‘constitutional crisis’

Criminal charges cannot be brought against a sitting president, however, the Constitution does allow for separate criminal charges once a president is removed.

5. What do the Democrats say about impeachment? What does Trump’s team say?

The Democratic leadership has so far tried to tamp down impeachment talk, instead advocating a “methodological” approach.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for his failure to hand over the full, unredacted Mueller report.

Pelosi said, however, that she isn’t going to rush the full House vote on the contempt resolution.

“This is very methodical, it’s very Constitution-based,” the top Democrat told reporters on Thursday. “We won’t go any faster than the facts take us, or any slower than the facts take us.”

Democrats want to see Mueller’s full Russia-Trump investigation report, as well as some of the underlying evidence.

Barr last month released a 448-page redacted version of Mueller’s report on his 22-month investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

US: White House orders ex-counsel McGahn to defy House subpoena

The redacted Mueller report details extensive contacts between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Moscow, as well as the campaign’s expectation of benefiting from Russia’s actions.

It did not establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives.

The investigation did, however, examine “multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations”. Mueller did not conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him either. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently concluded that Trump did not break the law.

The Department of Justice has accused Democrats of engaging in “inappropriate political theatrics” – an accusation Democrats dismissed.

Hours before the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt, Trump asserted executive privilege to block the release of the Mueller report.

The Trump administration has also blocked staffers and former aides from attending interviews or hearings, as well as having refused to disclose his subpoenaed tax returns.

Top Republicans have declared the Mueller investigation “case closed”.

“This investigation went on for two years,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “It’s finally over.”

Can the Supreme Court help Trump?

On the question of impeachment, Trump’s personal lawyer said in a recent New York Daily News interview that impeachment would give Trump a boost in advance of the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats “can do it if they want to,” Rudy Giuliani said. “Would it politically be the best thing that could happen to the president? Absolutely.”

US: What does the redacted Mueller report say?

But he has somewhat backtracked on those comments, telling the New York Times, “Nobody wants to be impeached. I think Clinton would say, even though it worked out to his favour, he would have rather not been impeached.”

Trump himself has falsely said he could turn the Supreme Court if the House moved to impeach him.

“I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump tweeted last month. “If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

But the Supreme Court has previously ruled that impeachment authority resides solely with Congress.

Pelosi said she recognised what the Trump administration is trying to do.

“Trump is goading us to impeach him,” she recently said at a Cornell University event.

US: What does the redacted Mueller report say?

“That’s what he’s doing,” she said. “Every single day, he’s just like taunting, taunting, taunting because he knows that would be very divisive in the country, but he doesn’t really care. He just wants to solidify his base.”

Who’s calling for impeachment?

As Democratic leadership continue to tiptoe around impeachment, a number of more progressive members of Congress have said it’s time for proceedings to begin.

“I believe impeachment is the solution to a constitutional crisis,” Representative Al Green told US media.

US Representative Rashida Tlaib speaks during a press conference [Saul Loeb/AFP]

Similar calls have also come from Rashida Tlaib, as well as Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

“If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail,” Warren said during a CNN town hall.

“He serves the whole thing up to the United States Congress and says, in effect, if there’s going to be any accountability, that accountability has to come from the Congress,” Warren said. “And the tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process. This is not about politics; this is about principle.”

6. What do Americans say about impeachment?

The number of Americans who said Trump should be impeached rose five percentage points to 45 percent since mid-April, while more than half said multiple congressional probes of Trump interfered with important government business, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.

The opinion poll, conducted on Monday, did not make clear whether investigation-fatigued Americans wanted House of Representatives Democrats to pull back on their probes or press forward aggressively and just get impeachment over with.

WATCH

Debating Mueller, Trump and the lies told

In addition to the 45 percent pro-impeachment figure, the Monday poll found that 42 percent of Americans said Trump should not be impeached. The rest said they had no opinion.

In comparison, an April 18-19 survey found that 40 percent of all Americans wanted to impeach Trump.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from April 24-29 put the overall support of impeachment at 39 percent.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed stronger support for impeachment among Democrats and independents.

It also showed that 57 percent of adults polled agreed that continued investigations into Trump would interfere with important government business. That included about half of all Democrats and three-quarters of all Republicans.

The poll also found that 32 percent agreed that Congress treated the Mueller report fairly, while 47 percent disagreed.

Trump’s popularity was unchanged from a similar poll that ran last week – 39 percent of adults said they approved of Trump, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English, throughout the US. It gathered responses from 1,006 adults and had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about four percentage points.

Al Jazeera: “Why the ‘one percent’ in the US is worried,” by David A Love

The wealthy elite increasingly recognises that the socioeconomic status quo in the US is unsustainable.

The US also has the highest rate of income inequality in the West [File: AP/Mark Lennihan]
The US also has the highest rate of income inequality in the West 

Inequality in the United States has reached such levels lately that even members of the “one percent” have started worrying.

  • Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates hedge fund who is ranked 57th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine, quipped in a recent interview that capitalism is denying “equal opportunity for the American dream”. He said that he was “a byproduct of capitalism when it also gave equal opportunity”, adding “I was very lucky to live the American dream by having the proper care and the proper public school education … A number of things have changed.”
  • Former Starbucks CEO and prospective presidential candidate Howard Schultz, who prefers to be called a “person of means” rather than a billionaire (ranked 617th by Forbes), recently observed that “the vast majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck” and declared that the next US president must urgently address inequality.
  • CEO of JP Morgan Chase Jamie Dimon (ranked 1,717th) also noted earlier this year that: “A big chunk of [Americans] have been left behind […] Forty percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour. Forty percent can’t afford a $400 bill, whether it’s medical or fixing their car. Fifteen percent of Americans make minimum wages, 70,000 die from opioids.”

Indeed, the growing impoverishment and despair that are plaguing our country are hard to miss. The US also has the highest rate of income inequality among Western nations, with the top one percent claiming 40 percent of US wealth in 2016, in contrast to a 25 to 30 percent share in the 1980s. According to the rather conservative estimates of the US Census Bureau, around 14 percent of the population or 45 million live in poverty. According to the UN, 8.5 million of them face extreme poverty and 5.3 million suffer in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty”.

But in reality, many more Americans struggle to secure a dignified life for themselves and their families. A damning report published by the UN in 2018 found that: “High child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion. The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class White workers.”

Perhaps parts of the American “one percent” are finally ready to admit that socioeconomic inequality has reached unprecedented levels and that the current status quo is unsustainable because just like South African billionaire Johann Rupert, the prospect of the poor masses rebelling is keeping them “awake at night“. They are now saying that capitalism “needs work” and are proposing various “fixes” – mainly “trickle-down philanthropy”. Some have gone as far as suggesting that social provision should be enhanced and that the wealthy should be taxed.

Yet all of them are quick to outright reject “socialist policies”. In a recent interview for NBC, Melinda Gates, cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wife of the second richest man in the world, echoed the thoughts of many of the super-rich, saying that: “What I know to be true is I would far rather live in a capitalistic society than a socialist society.”

But Gates is wrong. The current system in place in the US is not capitalism, but rather“socialism for the rich” which favours the “one percent” by granting it ever-increasing subsidies, exorbitant tax breaks, deregulation and executive bonuses. The rest of the population lives in an unfair system of inequality and segregation, struggling to make ends meet under severe austerity and erosion of labour rights. It is a system of “survival of the fittest”, which privileges some over the others based on race and gender.

Economic growth now only “uplifts” the rich, who are able to control the distribution of wealth by influencing the government and making sure it serves their interests and maintain their power. Through the US system of legalised corruption, the wealthy funnel billions of dollars in donations to election campaigns.

Unsurprisingly, the stop-gap fixes that people like Gates, Dimon, Schultz and Dalio are proposing are unlikely to work because they are designed to maintain the current system in place so they can continue to accumulate wealth unrestrained. The only viable solution that would prevent a major socioeconomic disaster in the US and subsequent social upheaval would be to overhaul the system.

Solutions to economic inequality and the excesses of American capitalism are necessary to save capitalism from itself, or better yet, to save people from capitalism.

There is an increasing number of dramatic proposals for economic justice that look promising. These include Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which envisions a national mobilisation to eliminate carbon emissions and transform the US economy, boosting economic growth and job creation, while seeking economic and racial justice for vulnerable communities. Ocasio-Cortez has also called for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on earnings above $10m.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Warren has a plan to wipe out $1.5 trillion in student loan debt by levying a surtax on the ultra-rich, while Congressman Bernie Sanders has put forward a proposal for universal healthcare. The idea of reparations for slavery, which could help alleviate some of the racial inequality in the country, is also gaining ground.

Although conservatives attack proposals promoting economic justice and equity as dangerous because they could lead to a totalitarian socialist system, such policies have long been a part of the US system. After all, the Green New Deal is named after the New Deal, which was introduced during the Great Depression to protect the poor, strengthen labour rights and impose strict regulation on the financial system.

At the same time, Americans are increasingly in favour of a major overhaul of the system, due to the problematic and corruptive nature of the current one. Existing and proposed government programmes of economic redistribution and equity are popular. Socialism is also gaining popularity, even surpassing capitalism among Democrats, particularly millennials. Such policies, which translate into more democratic ownership and control over the government and greater public accountability, most certainly frighten the wealthy for their effectiveness and political popularity.

If members of the “one percent” truly care about the widening wealth gap, they should not resist the implementation of these policies. An overhaul of the system might make them less wealthy, but ultimately will not be to their detriment. A profit can still be made if workers are paid dignified salaries, provided proper healthcare, and granted social and labour rights.

Indeed the choice of the “one percent” is reduced to either living in a more equal and just society or facing the wrath of angry impoverished masses.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 


US House panel votes to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt

Vote comes just hours after President Donald Trump invoked executive privilege over Mueller’s Russia report.

US Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing [Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]
US Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing [Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

Washington, DC – Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to recommend a contempt citation against US Attorney General William Barr, setting the stage for a constitutional confrontation with the White House over Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s full Russia report.

The 24-16 vote by the key Judiciary Committee came along party lines with all Democrats voting in favour, and all Republicans present opposed. One Republican was absent.

“This was very great and momentous step that we were forced to take today to move a contempt citation against the attorney general of the United States. We did not relish doing this but we have no choice,” Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democrat chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters after the vote.

Barr had “proved himself to be the personal attorney of President Trump rather than the attorney general of the United States, by misleading the public as to the contents of the Mueller report, twice, by not being truthful with Congress”, Nadler said.

The approval of the contempt resolution, which now goes to the full House for a vote, will likely prompt a court battle that may result in fines or jail time for Barr.

The vote came after weeks of talks between the lawyers for the committee and the attorney general failed to yield an agreement over access to Mueller’s full, unredacted report.

“Democrats are angry Mueller did not provide a roadmap for impeachment,” said Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

By “moving to this contempt citation at lightning speed”, the committee Democrats were pursuing “craven and insincere politics that seem to be yielding no benefits for the American people,” Collins said.

Trump invokes executive privilege

Hours before the vote, Republican President Donald Trump invoked executive privilege to block the release of the unredacted version of the Mueller report.

Trump invokes executive privilege over entire Mueller report

Federal courts have recognised a limited right by presidents to keep executive branch materials confidential.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the privilege claim was in response to Nadler’s “blatant abuse of power” and “at the attorney general’s request”.

House Democrats argued that Trump has already waived any right to executive privilege by allowing aides to provide information to the special counsel.

The Department of Justice said on Wednesday that “it’s not true the president waived executive privilege by sharing materials with the special counsel’s office”, according to Reuters news agency, quoting an unnamed department official.

The department also accused Democrats of engaging in “inappropriate political theatrics”.

Nadler called Trump’s executive privilege decision a “nonsense claim”.

“We will win these court fights because the law is one sided. And when the president or Attorney General Barr or anybody else cites executive privilege in these cases, they are not being honest, because there is no real claim at all,” he said.

Wednesday’s developments come as a battle between House Democrats and the Trump administration intensifies. 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.

‘If we don’t put the breaks, we won’t have a democracy’

The Judiciary Committee is seeking to have Mueller testify at a hearing later this month, perhaps as soon as May 15, and has asked former White House Counsel Don McGahn to appear on May 21.

US: What does the redacted Mueller report say?

White House lawyers are attempting to block McGahn from testifying. Reversing his earlier stance, Trump indicated in a series of tweets he is now opposed to Mueller testifying.

“The president keeps saying there is not going to be a ‘do over’. And he has talked about a number of people have said we should just be finished. That is the worst thing we could do,” Representative Elijah Cummings, the Democrat chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told Al Jazeera.

“If we do not put brakes on what is happening in our country, we will no longer have a democracy,” Cummings said. “We are being blocked every which way from getting information. We also being blocked from having access to members of the administration.”

Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat, told reporters in the US Capitol that sentiment among Democrats was hardening against Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the House review of the Mueller probe.

“Everyone recognises that the administration is attempting to stonewall and prevent progress because they want to run out the clock. We recognize that,” Cicilline said.

Republicans discounted the Judiciary Committee vote to hold Barr in contempt as a partisan exercise.

Post-Mueller: Can Trump block witnesses, access to documents?

“It’s a political contempt vote and we fully expected it,” said Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican who chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House in advance of the vote.

“When you play politics with somebody who has been as honest and forthright as Attorney General Barr has been, I think the American people will see it for what it is. It’s political,” Meadows told Al Jazeera.

‘In favour of prosecution’

Barr has come under criticism for his handling of Mueller’s 22-month investigation. More than 500 former Justice Department officials have signed an open letter calling Trump’s actions described in the Mueller report criminal.

“We believe strongly that … the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favour of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller report,” the letter said.

US: What does the redacted Mueller report mean for Trump?

The redacted version of the Mueller report did not establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives.

The investigation did, however, examine “multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations”.

Mueller did not conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him either. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently concluded that Trump did not break the law.

The Justice Department has made a less-redacted version available for House and Senate leaders and some committee heads, but the Democrats have said that is not enough and have so far declined to read it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has criticised Barr for mischaracterising the Mueller report said last week she believed Barr lied to Congress when he told House and Senate hearings he did not know of any concerns among Mueller’s team about his actions.

Mueller had written a letter to Barr in March that said the attorney general’s summary of the investigation had failed to adequately characterise the substance of the investigation.

US Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on ‘The Justice Department’s Investigation of Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election’ [Nicholas Kamm/AFP]

Barr was grilled by Democrat senators in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are seeking to bring an end to the controversy over the Mueller report. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has said he does not intend to call Mueller to testify. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a speech in the Senate on Tuesday arguing the matter should be closed.