House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), said Thursday that Democrats would have “no choice” but to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress if the Justice Department fails to negotiate in “good faith.”
Nadler issued a sweeping condemnation of Barr and the administration’s posture towards congressional oversight after Barr decided to skip attendance in the second day of a hearing into the Mueller report, ABC News and other sources report.
The House Judiciary Committee convened at 9 a.m. Thursday despite the fact that the witness chair where Barr was supposed to sit was empty. After opening statements from the chairman and ranking Republican, it adjourned, the New York Times reports. Nadler castigated the attorney general and what Democrats are increasingly labeling wholesale obstruction of their inquiries by the Trump administration.
Barr testified for five hours on Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, largely defending his handling of the special counsel’s report.
Democrats pressed Barr on a newly revealed letter in which special counsel Robert Mueller complained about Barr’s initial summary of his findings. Barr called Mueller’s letter “a bit snitty” and professed amazement that it should even matter after he released, voluntarily, a lightly redacted 448-page report.
The Justice Department’s job, Barr said, is to make charging decisions, not to police right and wrong. Congress or voters, he said, are welcome to look at the evidence themselves and pursue other recourse. As for the House hearing, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec called Democrats’ demands that Barr be questioned by staff lawyers as well as lawmakers “unprecedented and unnecessary,” and their approach “inappropriate.”
The challenge for Nadler and other committee leaders is now figuring out how to secure the material they want. Some lawmakers are arguing for opening an impeachment inquiry, which grants the House clearer powers to command information from the executive branch.
Republican Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, accused Nadler of abusing his power as chairman and said he is responsible for Barr’s not showing today.
“We had no choice today because my chairman took away our rights to ask him questions,” Collins said.
Collins said it is unprecedented for Nadler to demand staff lawyers question a witness.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, speaking with reporters, charged Nadler has “lost confidence in himself and his capability to do his job,” referencing his plan for staff attorneys to question at today’s hearing.
She said it “seems like a pretty pathetic moment” for Nadler.
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