The House Judiciary Committee has been informed that Attorney General Bill Barr (shown above right, beside Robert Mueller) will not testify at a planned hearing Thursday, an aide to the panel told Fox News — even as the Democrats who lead the committee vowed to hold the hearing anyway and threatened a possible contempt citation against Barr.
The prospect of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) gaveling a hearing with an empty chair came hours after Barr endured withering questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier on Wednesday.
A key sticking point was that Nadler wants to have House Judiciary Committee staff — rather than members of Congress — question Barr on his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
But DOJ officials said members should conduct the inquiry.
In remarks to reporters Thursday afternoon, Nadler said Democrats had “worked around the clock” to address Barr’s concerns and slammed what he called Barr’s “lack of candor.”
“He’s trying to blackmail the committee into not following the most effective means of eliciting the information we need,” Nadler said. “He is terrified of having to face a skilled attorney.”
Nadler also said the DOJ had denied House Democrats’ request for the full and unredacted Mueller report by Thursday, and said compliance with congressional subpoenas is “not optional.”
Although Barr has not yet been subpoenaed, Nadler said contempt citations could be possible down the road not only if the full Mueller report is not released, but also if Barr does not comply with a possible future subpoena.
“It’s a shame members of the House Judiciary Committee won’t get the opportunity to hear from Attorney General Barr this Thursday, because Chairman Nadler chose to torpedo our hearing,” House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said in a statement. “The attorney general gave clear, informative testimony in the Senate Wednesday, as he offered to do more than a month ago in the House tomorrow.”
Collins added, “By rejecting the chance to question Attorney General Barr or read the materials he’s provided, Democrats are trying to prolong an investigation the special counsel completed. Ultimately, though, they’re ignoring the will of the majority of Americans who want Congress to move on and secure our border and continue to strengthen our economy.”
“We’re not torpedoeing this hearing,” Nadler said, responding to Collins’ remarks.
He added that Barr has a “nerve” to challenge the panel’s ability to conduct its own hearing.
Republicans on the panel have echoed Collins’ argument for days.
“Attorney General Barr wasn’t asked to testify before the committee — he offered,” a spokesperson for House Judiciary Committee Republicans told Fox News earlier this week. “He provided the Mueller report voluntarily. He invited Democrat leaders to view the less redacted report in person. Yet the only thing, apparently, that will satisfy Democrats, who refuse to read the less redacted report, is to have staff pinch-hit when a cabinet-level official appears before us.”
The spokesperson continued, “What actual precedent is there for our committee making such demands of a sitting attorney general as part of our oversight duties? The attorney general isn’t a fact witness, and this committee’s investigations — as Democrat leadership reminds us daily — don’t constitute impeachment, so Democrats have yet to prove their demands anything but abusive and illogical in light of the transparency and good faith the attorney general has shown our committee.”
It is unusual for committee counsels to question a witness, especially a high-ranking Cabinet official.
“The attorney general isn’t a fact witness, and this committee’s investigations — as Democrat leadership reminds us daily — don’t constitute impeachment.”
Several top Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have called for Barr’s resignation in the wake of his Senate testimony on Wednesday. The hearing covered everything from Barr’s decision not to pursue an obstruction case against President Trump to process delays in getting a redacted version of Mueller’s report to the public to Mueller’s apparent concerns about how Barr initially relayed his findings to Congress.
Barr, for his part, called some of Mueller’s comments “a bit snitty,” and suggested that the brouhaha was bizarre political theater, given that the Mueller report has been released publicly already.
Separately on Thursday, Democrats said Carl Kline, the former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, had failed to substantively answer several questions posed by the House Oversight and Reform Committee during a closed-door hearing.
Illinois Democrat Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi told reporters Kline will have to answer questions “one way or another.”
“I am not happy, since the White House is basically instructing the witness not to answer questions that are very pertinent to our inquiries,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We need to know about specific cases, specific individuals, and there seems to be some kind of blanket assertion that is not lodged in executive privilege or any kind of a recognizable basis for not answering questions. And so today’s a voluntary interview, but I suspect we’re going to be disputing this after today.”
Gregg Re is an editor and attorney based in Los Angeles. Fox News’ Jason Donner and Caroline McKee contributed to this Fox News report, which is used by permission.
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