Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday jokingly asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) if she brought her “handcuffs” in an apparent reference to the Democrat leader insinuating she could put him and other Trump Cabinet members in jail.
Fox News producer Jake Gibson, citing a source close to Barr, said the Justice Department head approached Pelosi during the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on Capitol Hill and “asked if she had brought her handcuffs,” sparking laughter between the two. “[N]o word on Pelosi’s response,” Gibson added.
Attorney General Bill Barr spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in person today, after the National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the Capitol. A source close to Barr says he asked Pelosi if she had brought her handcuffs. There was laughter but no word on Pelosi's response.
— Jake Gibson (@JakeBGibson) May 15, 2019
Barr skipped a House hearing May 2nd on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report, escalating an already battle between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s Justice Department. House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and fellow Democrat panel members voted May 8th to hold Barr in contempt for refusing to testify.
With Barr absent, Democrats convened a short hearing that included an empty chair with a place card set for Barr. Shortly afterward, Pelosi increased the tensions further. In a reference to the attorney general’s testimony last month, Pelosi said Barr “was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States — that’s a crime.”
On the day of the contempt vote, Washington Post reporter Bob Costa asked Pelosi if she would arrest Trump Administration officials, such as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, if they were held in contempt of Congress.
“Well, let me just say, we do have a little jail down in the basement of the Capitol,” she responded. “But if we were arresting all of the people in the administration, we would have overcrowded jail situation, and I’m not for that.”
At a hearing on April 9th, Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) asked Barr about reports that members of Mueller’s team believed he had failed to adequately portray their findings in a four-page memo that was released before the full report.
Crist asked at the hearing, “Do you know what they are referencing with that?” Barr responded, “No, I don’t,” and went on to say Mueller’s team probably wanted “more put out” about what they had found.
Democrats have raised questions about that testimony since it was revealed this week that Mueller had written Barr two weeks earlier, on March 27, complaining that the attorney general’s memo “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his work.
Barr has said his answer was not misleading because he had been in touch with Mueller, rather than members of his team, and that the concerns were mostly about process and not substance. Within minutes of Pelosi’s comments, Justice Department Spokeswoman Kerri Kupec called her words “reckless, irresponsible and false.”
Barr’s quip Wednesday comes as Nadler is ratcheting up his attacks on the attorney general, calling him a “liar” working to protect President Trump. “Bill Barr is just a liar. And, he’s just representing the president,” the New York Democrat told CNBC’s John Harwood when asked about Barr dismissing lingering Trump-Russia collusion talk earlier today.
“You could have two interpretations of Bill Barr’s motives. The less charitable interpretation is he’s doing whatever he has to do, to protect the president personally. And he’ll hide whatever he has to hide,” he added. Lied may be too strong a word, but he certainly misrepresented very strongly what was in the report. The more charitable interpretation is that he simply believes in the so-called unitary theory of government, and this tyrannical theory that any president cannot obstruct justice, that as long as he believes that he didn’t do anything wrong, he can stop an investigation, which is a terrible doctrine because it would mean that you can’t investigate any president for doing anything.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.