House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) threatened on Wednesday to issue a contempt citation if Attorney General William Barr did not show up for a committee hearing the next day about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
However, when Barr did not show up for the hearing Thursday morning, Nadler delivered a lecture instead.
“Even if Democrats and Republicans disagree on the format of this hearing, we must come together to protect the integrity of this chamber. The administration may not dictate the terms of a hearing in this hearing room,” he said.
Nadler had wanted staff members to question Barr at the hearing, which the Justice Department called “unprecedented and unnecessary.” Republican said Democrats were trying to make the hearing appear to be an “impeachment” hearing, and not an oversight hearing.
Nadler also wanted Barr to agree to a closed-door session to discuss the redacted portions of Mueller’s report.
Barr objected to those terms and warned the chairman he would not appear if he insisted on that format. The two sides are reportedly negotiating a May 15 appearance.
He did, however, testify to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for six hours on Wednesday.
Nonetheless, Nadler framed Barr’s refusal to appear as part of the destruction of the nation’s system of government and accused the president of wanting to make congressional oversight “inert.”
He issued Barr another warning: “Yes, we will have no choice but to hold the attorney general in contempt if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith.”
“If he does not provide this committee with the information it demands, the respect it deserves, Mr. Barr’s moment of accountability will come soon enough,” he added.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) showed up to the hearing with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to suggest that Barr was a chicken for not testifying.
The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) fired back, blasting Nadler for what he said was a “circus political stunt.”
“The reason Bill Barr is not here is because the Democrats decided they didn’t want him here today. That’s the reason he’s not here,” he said. “What is amazing to me is to say that he’s scared of answering questions…yesterday he sat for six hours in the Senate voluntarily answering questions.”
“Yesterday he proved he’s not terrified to sit before anybody, especially the Senate, which they extended the question time on. He answered the questions,” he added. “You can agree with the attorney general or disagree with the attorney general but not hearing from him is a travesty for this committee today.”
“The question I have here is not what Bill Barr is scared of. My question is what are the Democrats scared of? They don’t want Bill Barr here today.”