AG William Barr Warns He Might Not Appear at House Committee Hearing on Mueller Report

April 29, 2019 Updated: April 30, 2019

Attorney General William Barr has warned a House committee that he may pull out of a scheduled hearing focused on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation if they plan to go ahead with the format proposed by the committee chair.

Barr told Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee that he objects to the additional rounds of questioning proposed by Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), reported CNN, citing a committee source with knowledge of the matter.

Along with the five minutes of questions for each member of the committee, Nadler has also proposed a subsequent round that would give each side 30 minutes to question the attorney general, while also allowing both parties’ committee counsel to participate in the questioning. Moreover, Nadler also proposed to have a closed session to discuss redacted sections of Mueller’s report.

Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec told The Hill in a statement that Congress members should be the ones doing the questioning.

“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,” Kupec told the news website.

Meanwhile, the Washington Examiner reported that the Justice Department and the committee are still in discussion regarding the format, citing a separate department official.

Barr offered to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 and the House Judiciary Committee on May 2 after the release of Mueller’s report. A redacted report was made publicly available on April 18, which concluded that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it did not conspire with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Attorney General William Barr
Attorney General William Barr speaks alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (R) and acting Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward O’Callaghan (L) at the Department of Justice in Washington, on April 18, 2019. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)

It also found the special counsel didn’t provide enough evidence to substantiate that the president obstructed justice.

In response to Barr’s objections, Nadler told CNN on April 28 that he would not allow the attorney general to “tell the committee how to conduct its hearing.”

He added that if Barr refuses to appear, then the House Democrats would subpoena Barr and “use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.”

Jerry Nadler attends a news conference
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in Washington on April 9, 2019. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

The House Democrats have refused to accept the finding of the Mueller report and have launched hearings and investigations into the obstruction of justice claims that they hoped would lead to the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

They have also criticized Barr for the handling of the release of the report and accused him of siding with the president.

For example, the House Democrats have repeatedly pushed for the release of the full unredacted Mueller report, even though Barr has expressed his intention to accommodate with Congress’s requests and to release the report to the fullest extent possible. The redactions are required to protect grand jury secrecy or to comply with judicial orders aimed at protecting the release of sensitive discovery information. They are also necessary to prevent the disclosure of information related to ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings including the Internet Research Agency and Roger Stone cases.

On April 19, Nadler issued a subpoena for the full unredacted report so that his committee could make “informed decisions,” including whether or not to try and impeach President Trump. He expects the Justice Department to comply with the subpoena by May 1.

Barr has previously offered to allow select members of Congress to read a less-redacted version of the Mueller report—an offer the House Democrats have not taken up, according to a spokesperson for the House Judiciary Committee Republicans, reported CNN.

Barr is scheduled to attend the Senate hearing on May 1.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan