Attorney General William Barr is skipping testifying on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday over a fight with House Democrats over what the hearing format should be.
Democrats want committee members to have one round of questioning of Barr, and then to turn it over to the staffs’ counsels to continue questioning him. They also want the attorney general to stay for a closed hearing where they could discuss redacted information in Mueller’s report.
In addition to Barr’s decision to skip the hearing, the Justice Department notified Nadler on Wednesday afternoon that it would not comply with his subpoena for the unredacted version of Mueller’s report and underlying documents.
Nadler issued a statement late Wednesday evening saying the hearing would proceed anyway.
“Compliance with congressional subpoenas is not optional. There are many questions that must be answered. The Committee will convene at 9:00 tomorrow morning, as planned. My colleagues will be present. I hope and expect that Attorney General Barr will be there as well,” Nadler said, adding:
Given his lack of candor in describing the work of the Special Counsel, our Members were right to insist that staff counsel be permitted to question the Attorney General. I understand why he wants to avoid that kind of scrutiny, but when push comes to shove, the Administrative may not dictate the terms of a hearing in our hearing room.
He said he would continue to work with Barr to reach a “reasonable accommodation on access to the full report and the underlying evidence, but not for much longer.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Nadler threatened to issue a contempt citation against Barr for skipping the hearing.
The top Republican on the committee fired back with a statement of his own.
“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,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) said in a statement.
Collins said on PBS Newshour that Democrats’ demands were a “stunt” in which they were trying to “appear as if they were trying to do impeachment hearings when in reality it was an oversight hearing.”
He said Nadler sabotaged the hearing and deprived the Democrats and Republicans of asking questions about the Mueller report.
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) May 1, 2019
Barr testified for several hours on Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He was questioned repeatedly on whether he had tried to mislead the public when he released a letter on March 24 with Mueller’s principal conclusions.
A letter from Mueller to Barr leaked to the Washington Post and the New York Times on Tuesday evening showed that Mueller was concerned over “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.” House Judiciary Democrats later posted the letter on their Twitter feed.
Barr testified Wednesday that Mueller was not objecting to what he had stated in his March 24 letter to Congress, but that he was concerned with media reporting on the obstruction part, and he had asked Barr to release the report’s executive summaries.
Barr said those summaries still contained information that needed to be redacted, so he chose to release the March 24 letter with the principal conclusions first, and then the whole redacted report at a later time.
He called Mueller’s letter “a bit snitty,” and suggested that it was not Mueller but a team lawyer who wrote it.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) delivered a fiery opening statement at the hearing.
“I appreciate very much what Mr. Mueller did for the country. I have read most of the report. For me, it is over,” Graham said.
During the hearing, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) suggested Barr was a “grifter” and a “liar.”
Hirono said Barr joins White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani as people who have “sacrificed their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar that sits in the Oval Office.”
Graham slammed her remarks as slander.
“You slandered this man from top to bottom, so, if you want more of this, you’re not going to get it. If you want to ask questions, you can,” he said.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) blasted Democrats for trying to exploit the Mueller investigation to harm the president. He said:
That observation, I think has been borne out, time and time again, over the past two years. Time and time again, the president’s political adversaries have exploited the Mueller probe, its mere existence, to spread baseless innuendo in an effort to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 election and the effectiveness of this administration.
Barr admonished Democrats to stop using the criminal justice system “as a political weapon.”
He told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that he did not “exonerate” but concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish obstruction.
“The job of the Justice Department that is now over, that determines whether or not there has been a crime, the report is now in the hands of the American people, everyone can decide for themselves, there’s an election in 18 months, it’s a very democratic process. But, we’re out of it,” Barr said.
Watch the entire briefing here: