Attorney General William Barr is supposed to testify before Congress twice this week, however, one of those appearances is apparently in jeopardy. Based on current negotiations over his appearance, Barr will likely be a “no-show” at a long-awaited hearing on Thursday before the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee, a source on the committee told Fox News on Sunday.
The emerging spat comes after Barr has endured withering attacks from congressional Democrats, who have outright accused him of sacrificing his integrity to appease President Trump. It was Barr who spearheaded the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report in recent weeks, and he has largely become a punching bag for progressives frustrated that Mueller’s probe found no evidence to back up claims that the Trump team colluded with Russians.
Fox News has learned that Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., wants to have Judiciary Committee staff — rather than members of Congress — question Barr on his handling of Mueller’s report. But DOJ officials say members should conduct the inquiry.
“The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress; therefore Congress does the questioning,” a DOJ official told Fox News.
Not a Done Deal
Discussions about Thursday’s hearing are ongoing, so it is not yet definitive that Barr will not appear as scheduled. Barr is also scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. There have been no objections for Barr to appear before the GOP-led Senate committee, where Barr is expected to face “normal” rounds of member questioning – and not the partisan attacks he would be subject to in Thursday’s testimony before the House Committee.
Justice officials also told the committee that they are opposed to the panel’s plan to go into a closed session if members want to discuss redacted portions of Mueller’s report, a Democratic senior committee aide told The Associated Press.
“Attorney General Barr wasn’t asked to testify before the committee—he offered,” a spokesperson for House Judiciary Committee Republicans told Fox News. “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 Republican spokesperson added, “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. But committees can generally make their own rules, and other panels have made similar exceptions. In a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year, for example, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee hired an outside prosecutor to question a witness who had accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Barr Vs the Democrats
This conflict between Barr and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, comes as tensions have escalated sharply between House Democrats and the Trump administration over full access to Mueller’s report and government witnesses who have defied congressional subpoenas to testify. Democrats have been eagerly anticipating the hearing with Barr as they try to build on Mueller’s findings with their own investigations into the president.
According to Fox News, House Democrats have subpoenaed the Justice Department for the unredacted version of the Mueller report and underlying material gathered from the investigation. In response, the Justice Department has said they will make the full report, minus grand jury material (which legally must be withheld), available to a limited group of members — an offer that Democrats have so far refused. The dispute could eventually end up in court.
Nadler has also invited Mueller to testify, and subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn. McGahn was a vital witness for Mueller in the report, which recounted the president’s outrage over the Mueller investigation and his efforts to curtail it. The White House has asserted it will fight the McGahn subpoena.