News & Politics

Nadler Threatens to Subpoena AG William Barr if He Skips Hearing Conducted by Staffers

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold  (D-N.Y.) has threatened to subpoena Attorney General William Barr if he decides to skip an upcoming House Judiciary hearing, this week.

Barr is scheduled to testify before the committee on Thursday, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) has voiced objections over the format of the hearing. Nadler has proposed having committee staff question Barr about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Democrats also want to go into a closed session with the attorney general to discuss the redacted parts of the Mueller report.

DOJ officials have said that they oppose any plans to go into a closed session and contend that lawmakers, not staffers, should conduct the hearing. “The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress; therefore Congress does the questioning,” an official said.

“The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period,” Nadler told CNN on Sunday, adding that if Barr does not appear on Thursday, his committee “will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.”

Republicans called the Democrats’ demands “abusive and illogical.”

A spokesperson for the House Judiciary Committee Republican minority told Fox News over the weekend:

Attorney General Barr wasn’t asked to testify before the committee—he offered. He provided 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.

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.

According to Politico, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec argued that since Barr was the one who volunteered to testify before Congress, “Members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning.” She added: “He remains happy to engage with Members on their questions regarding the Mueller report.”

The Democrat-led committee nevertheless on Monday announced plans “to hold a Wednesday morning vote that would authorize the panel’s Democratic and GOP counsels to split an hour of additional questioning about the special counsel’s findings.”

On Wednesday, Barr is also set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the Republican-led committee is expected to have normal rounds of member questioning. However, with three 2020 Democratic hopefuls — Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris –serving on the panel, some degree of theatrics is expected.

The Judiciary Committee has already issued a subpoena to the DOJ demanding access to the unredacted Mueller report and related grand jury evidence and testimony by Wednesday. Republicans object to the move because the grand jury or classified information would almost certainly be leaked to the media.

President Trump added his two cents worth on Monday with a tweet slamming “Radical Left Democrats” and praising “our highly respected A.G.”