CNN reports that Attorney General William Barr is threatening to not testify about the Mueller report in front of the House Judiciary Committee because of his objections to the questioning format proposed by chairman Jerry Nadler.
Nadler has proposed one round of questions with each committee member allotted five minutes and wants to have the committee counsels for both parties engage in 30 minutes of questioning. The Justice Department has objected to the proposal of the committee counsels asking questions. In a statement, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, “The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress. Therefore, members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning. He remains happy to engage with members on their questions regarding the Mueller report.”
Per CNN, Barr also objects to Nadler’s proposal to have the committee discuss the redacted portions of the Mueller report in closed session.
Attorney General Barr is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The committee voted today to have a vote on Tuesday on the format and plans to go ahead with the hearing whether Barr attends or not, CNN reports.
On Sunday morning, Nadler told CNN that the Attorney General would not “dictate the format of the Judiciary Committee.” He said, “The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.” When asked what would happen if the AG does not show up, Nadler replied, “Then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.”
The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed the unredacted Mueller report and the underlying evidence the special counsel used to reach his conclusions and Nadler has signaled his willingness to go to court if Barr refuses to comply, Politico reports. Democrats have rejected Barr’s offer to provide congressional leaders with a version of the report with only the grand jury material redacted. The subpoena issued by the committee demands the unredacted report be made available to them by Wednesday.
It is not unprecedented for a Congressional committee to allow committee counsels to question a witness. Allowing committee counsels time to question a witness provides the opportunity to follow up on questions committee members may not have asked in the prior round of questioning.
Daniel Schwarz, spokesman for Representative Nadler, pointed out to CNN that committee counsels asked questions at the impeachment hearing for both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Republican committee staff also participated in questioning Hillary Clinton in interviews behind closed doors. As recently as September 2018, the Republican controlled Senate Judiciary invited an outside counsel to question Christine Blasey Ford in a hearing regarding her allegations against then-nominee for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Barr’s threat to be a no-show on Thursday heightens an already tense relationship between the president and Congress, with the Judiciary Committee already having already issued a subpoena ordering Don McGahn, former White House Counsel, to testify and the Oversight Committee ordering subpoenas demanding the president’s accounting firm turn over 10 years worth of documents. House Democrats have objected to Barr’s handling of the Mueller report and question his decision to not prosecute President Trump when Robert Mueller seemed to intend Congress to make that decision. According to CNN, the committee Democrats intend to talk to Robert Mueller about the Russia investigation next month.
Today on Twitter, President Trump, added to the drama of this showdown between the Attorney General of the United States and a Congressional committee with the power to impeach him.
A spokesman for the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee said, “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 official appears before us. 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.”
The Attorney General is expected to attend his scheduled appearance in front of the Republican led Senate Judiciary Committee and that hearing is expected to be fiery as well, with Lindsey Graham, an outspoken Trump defender, on the committee as well as Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar.