Look like Attorney General Bill Barr isn’t going to show up at a long-awaited hearing on Thursday.
It’s supposed to be in front of the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee. But as of right now, sources tell the media that it’s not going to happen based on current negotiations over his appearance.
Congressional Democrats have flat out accused Barr of sacrificing his integrity to make President Trump happy.
The spat started after Barr managed the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report over the past several weeks. Barr has been under attack by progressives non-stop. They are angry that Mueller’s probe found no collusion with Russians.
According to Fox News, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., wants to have Judiciary Committee staff question Barr. This would be in place of members of Congress asking him about his handling of Mueller’s report.
Department of Justice officials say if Congress wants to ask questions, they should handle the inquiry themselves.
“The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress; therefore Congress does the questioning,” a DOJ official told Fox News.
The panel also plans to go into a closed session if members want to discuss redacted portions of Mueller’s Report. According to a Democrat senior committee aide, DOJ officials are opposed to that plan.
Negotiations about Thursday’s hearing are expected to resume on Monday. Right now according to the official schedule, Barr is supposed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, then the House panel on Thursday.
It’s expected that the GOP-led Senate committee will have normal rounds of member questioning.
“Attorney General Barr wasn’t asked to testify before the committee—he offered,” said a spokesperson for House Judiciary Committee Republicans to Fox News.
The spokesperson says he handed over 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 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.”
While committees can largely make their own rules, it is no doubt not common for committee counsels to question a witness. But other panels have made exceptions.
Take, for example, a confirmation hearing last year for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
He was accused of sexual assault, and so Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee hired an outside prosecutor to question the accuser.
Democrats grilled Barr in early April before the release of the complete Mueller report with only limited redactions. They it was “unacceptable” that he had released a 4-page summary of Mueller’s findings.
This battle between Barr and Democrats comes at the peak of tensions between House Democrats and the Trump administration over full access to both Mueller’s report along with government witnesses who have defied congressional subpoenas to testify.
Democrats are trying to build on Mueller’s findings with their own “investigations” into the president, and have been hungrily awaiting Barr’s hearing.
They’ve gone so far as to subpoena the Justice Department for the unredacted Mueller report, along with any other material from the investigation.
The Justice Department responded by saying they’d make the full report available to a limited group of members, with a caveat. It wouldn’t have grand jury material, which legally must be withheld. Democrats have refused the offer, and it’s expected to end up in court.
Democrats have also attacked Barr for the conclusion that Trump didn’t obstruct justice. He made the decision after Mueller said he found he couldn’t exonerate the president on that point, and punted to Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. After all, there was no collusion – so what would he be “obstructing”?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also attacked Barr. She suggested a conspiracy of sorts, saying Barr is involved in a “staggering public effort” by the Trump administration to put a positive spin on Mueller’s findings.
Nadler has subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGhan, who was a key witness for Mueller in the report. He testified about the president’s anger over the Mueller investigation. The White House says it will fight that subpoena.
Mueller has also been invited to testify.
Trump did say that while he didn’t assert executive privilege to shield any aspect of the Mueller report, it’s time to move on.
And of all the people to agree with Trump, surprisingly it was liberal comedian Bill Maher. He Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., that Democrats are now coming across as stalking Trump by focusing on what’s now become a discredited narrative that he colluded with Russia.
Bill Maher mocks Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (CA) over his obsession with President Donald Trump and Russia: “But this was our big gun. Now it just looks like you’re stalking him” pic.twitter.com/gzlaSO5Jsm
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) April 27, 2019
Another former White House staffer has agreed to testify. That’s Carl Kline, who worked as the White House’s personnel security director.
He was at risk of being held in contempt of Congress if he didn’t testify. Apparently a former subordinate told the panel, which subpoenaed him, that dozens of administration officials were given security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds.
Initially, Kline defied a subpoena to appear. That’s when Democrats threatened contempt action against him. The White House weighed in shortly after, saying Kline could appear voluntarily on May 1 to discuss “personnel security policies and practices.”