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William Barr skips House hearing on the Mueller report

William Barr calls Mueller's letter about summary 'snitty'
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What we covered here

  • No Barr: Attorney General William Barr was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee today, but he decided to skip it after a dispute with House Democrats over the questioning format.
  • Instead: The committee still met Thursday, without Barr. There was an empty chair set up for him.
  • What happens next: Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler said he will move to hold Barr in contempt “if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith.”
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DOJ spokeswoman calls Pelosi's comments "reckless, irresponsible, and false"

The Justice Department is hitting back against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing Attorney General Bill Barr of a crime this morning.

“The baseless attack on the Attorney General is reckless, irresponsible and false,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

Nancy Pelosi accuses Barr of lying to Congress: "That's a crime"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding her weekly news conference after Attorney General William Barr skipped a House committee hearing this morning.

She just criticized Barr for the testimony he’s previously given to Congress and accused him of lying to Congress – a crime.

Later, Pelosi was asked bluntly if she believes Barr committed a crime.

She said this: “He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the President of the United States and not the attorney general.”

When asked if she believe Barr should go to jail, Pelosi said “there’s a process involved here” and added that “the committee will act upon how we will proceed.”

Ted Lieu: We will impeach Trump if he doesn’t turn over records

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, dismissed questions that the Democrats’ tactics with Attorney General William Barr may have backfired in trying to gather evidence and question him.

But Lieu said confidently that Democrats will impeach Trump if his administration doesn’t comply with Democrats’ requests for information.

“If we can’t gather the facts, then we’re going to launch an Article III impeachment. Under Nixon, what happened to him, Article III was obstructed congress. If we can’t gather facts, that may be the only tool we have left, and we’ll use it if we have no other tools left.”

When asked by CNN’s Manu Raju if he had any assurances from Chairman Jerry Nadler or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Lieu said it was his personal opinion, but that “it’s unifying the caucus.”

“You understand that you cannot have Donald Trump and the executive branch blowing off Congress, ignoring Congress,” he said. “So, if they push us to go there, we are going to go there.”

Watch:

Senior Republican: There is "no precedent" for attorneys to question witnesses

House Judiciary Ranking Member Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, spoke to reporters after the hearing and told CNN’s Manu Raju that there was “no precedent” for attorneys to question witnesses at a congressional hearing.

He asked rhetorically:

Collins said the issue “is becoming a circus” and that yesterday’s events “was a travesty in our committee.”

When asked about Nadler holding Barr in contempt, Collins said his questions “are going to be, what is your hurry, have you actually looked for accommodations, have you actually tried to work with this Department of Justice?”

Nadler: I'll make "one more good faith" effort to negotiate with Barr before holding him in contempt

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler repeated his threat to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt, though he said his committee would “make one more good faith attempt to negotiate.”

Nadler, speaking to reporters after the hearing, said if there’s no progress “we will proceed to hold the Attorney General in contempt.”

Asked how long Barr would be given before the committee would hold him in contempt, Nadler said, “maybe by Monday, we’ll see.”

Nadler said his committee could not concede “the ability to control the manner in which Congress does its job.”

He continued:

“The attorney general is bound, as are other witnesses to come before the committee, and he cannot dictate to us how we will do our job. We feel that this is the most effective way of doing it, and that is our decision.” 

Top GOP congressman on committee says the chairman took away minority rights

Republican Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, accused chairman Jerry Nadler of abusing his power as chairman and said he is responsible Attorney General William Barr not showing today. 

Remember: Barr’s decided to skip the hearing after a dispute between House Democrats and the nation’s top law enforcement officer over whether Barr would publicly face questions from committee staff attorneys.

Collins said it is unprecedented for Nadler to demand staff lawyers question a witness.

Sarah Sanders says Nadler isn't "capable" of asking Barr questions 

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders speaks to reporters after appearing on Fox News White House May 2, 2019, in Washington, DC.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had harsh words for House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler while speaking to reporters this morning, claiming Nadler has “lost confidence in himself and his capability to do his job,” referencing his plan for staff attorneys to question at today’s hearing.

She said it “seems like a pretty pathetic moment” for Nadler. 

Attorneys would be more effective in questioning, as they would get 30 minutes to question, instead of give minute rounds for members.

She continued:

“If he and his committee aren’t capable of actually asking the attorney general themselves and need to staff that out, it seems like a pretty pathetic moment for the chairman of that committee and look — we lost confidence in Jerry Nadler a long time ago but it’s surprising to find out he’s actually lost confidence in himself and his capability to do his job. If he can’t and he’s not capable of asking the attorney general questions- maybe he should step down and resign and allow somebody else that can.”

A Democratic congressman ate KFC at today's hearing: "Chicken Barr should have showed up"

Congressman Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, eats chicken as during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 2, 2019.

Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat of Tennessee, had an unusual breakfast at today’s hearing: fried chicken.

Cohen ate from a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken at today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.

After the hearing, Cohen spoke to reporters.

See it here:

The hearing is over

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler abruptly ended the hearing following Republican Doug Collins’ remarks.

Nadler closed by saying this:

“We will not hear from the attorney general today, but this committee intends to get the information it needs to conduct this constitutional oversight and legislative responsibilities. We will defend the prerogatives of Congress. We will defend the rights of the American people to know what’s going on. We will defend the constitutional scheme of equal and coordinate branches of government, we will make sure that no president becomes a monarch. We need the information without delay.” 

GOP congressman: Barr isn't here today because of the Democrats

Republican Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, criticized Democrats, blaming them for Attorney General William Barr’s decision to skip today’s hearing.

Some context: Barr’s decision came after a dispute between House Democrats and the nation’s top law enforcement officer over whether Barr would publicly face questions from committee staff attorneys.

In a fiery speech, Collins called today’s actions a “stunt” and a “circus” and defended Barr, who answered questions at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday.

“What is amazing to me is to say that he is scared of answering questions, scared — you can disagree with the attorney general all you want, but for yesterday he sat for over six hours in the Senate voluntarily answering questions, even on a second round that was taken up by Democrats who wanted to ask more questions,” he said. “You can argue ‘Did he do good? Did he do bad?’ It doesn’t matter — but we’re not getting that opportunity today because of the stunt and the circus continues over here.”

Committee chairman: We will hold Barr in contempt if he "stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith"

Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he will move to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt “if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith.”

“Yes, we will continue to negotiate for access to the full report for another couple of days, and yes, we will have no choice but to move quickly to hold the attorney general in contempt if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith, but the attorney general must make a choice,” Nadler said.

Nadler gaveled into today’s hearing without Barr and explained that the Department of Justice wrote the committee to say it would ignore a subpoena for the full Mueller report.

“The choice is simple, we can stand up to this President in defense of the country and the constitution and the liberty we love, or we can let the moment pass us by,” he said.

Just as the House committee gaveled in, Barr left his Virginia home

At 9 a.m. ET on the dot, Attorney General William Barr departed his house in McLean, Virginia — presumably on his way to his office at the Department of Justice.

The House Judiciary hearing was getting ready to begin on Capitol Hill at that moment. They officially gaveled in at 9:05 a.m. ET.

Barr's not at today's hearing, but there's an empty chair for him

The House Judiciary Committee is still meeting this morning, even though Attorney General William Barr is skipping it.

However, the committee has set up a literal empty chair in the hearing room for the attorney general.

Catch up: Here's what we learned during Barr's testimony yesterday

Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, marking his first public testimony since the release of the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Here are some of the key things Barr said:

  • He didn’t exonerate Trump: Barr said he did not exonerate President Trump and urged the American people to decide for themselves. “I didn’t exonerate. I said that we did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to establish an obstruction offense which is the job of the Justice Department.”
  • He said Trump cooperated (but that’s not what Mueller said): Barr said President Trump “fully cooperated” with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But several times in his report, Mueller points out how Trump and his team fell short of complete cooperation.
  • He offered to let Mueller read his letter: Barr said he gave Mueller the opportunity to read his four-page memo to Congress — which he said was not supposed to be a summary of the lengthy report — but Mueller declined.
  • He’s OK with Mueller testifying: Barr said he has no objection to Mueller testifying before Congress. But allowing former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify would be up to President Trump, he said.

The hearing will go on — even without Barr

The House Judiciary Committee will still meet Thursday, without Barr —creating the spectacle of a literal empty chair in the hearing room for the attorney general

But note: Committee chairman Jerry Nadler said the panel’s primary focus is to obtain the full report and Mueller’s underlying evidence, not Barr’s testimony.

“Our first priority is to get the unredacted Mueller report,” Nadler said.

Barr was supposed to testify again today. Here's why that's not happening.

Attorney General William Barr spent several hours testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. He was supposed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee today — but now that’s not happening.

Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler announced Wednesday that Barr will skip today’s hearing following a dispute between House Democrats and the nation’s top law enforcement officer over whether Barr would publicly face questions from committee staff attorneys.

The Justice Department also informed the committee that it would not comply with its subpoena for the full, unredacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller, Nadler said, missing a deadline the committee had set for Wednesday.

So what happens now? If the Justice Department does not change course in the next day or two, Nadler said, the committee is likely to begin contempt proceedings against Barr over defying the subpoena for the full report.

GO DEEPER

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