Attorney General William Barr has accepted an invitation to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, a DOJ spokesperson said on Wednesday.
“The Attorney General has accepted an invitation to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a general oversight hearing on July 28th,” DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec announced on Twitter.
This comes a day after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) threatened Barr with a subpoena to compel the attorney general to testify before a July 2 committee hearing if he does not come forward to testify voluntarily.
Barr was originally scheduled to voluntarily testify at the end of March, but the CCP virus pandemic forced the House to call off committee proceedings. The testimony was rescheduled for early June but the DOJ said Barr was not able to participate, citing a May 29 White House guidance restricting cabinet-level officials from participating in congressional hearings in June during the pandemic (pdf).
The DOJ came under scrutiny from Democrats earlier this year over claims that the department was acting under the influence of “improper political interference” from President Donald Trump in cases related to former associates of the president such as Roger Stone and Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Democrats had billed the hearing as an opportunity to seek information and fulfill its oversight responsibility regarding how several departmental matters had been handled, including the Stone case, the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the department’s probe into the origins of the 2016 counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign, and the creation of a new process to vet information submitted by anyone about Ukraine, including Giuliani.
House lawmakers also want to seek testimony from the attorney general over the recent dismissal of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Geoffrey Berman, who initially resisted calls to resign before conceding to his removal after the attorney general invoked the authority of President Donald Trump.
During his time in office, Berman led the prosecution against sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, before Epstein committed suicide in jail.
Berman’s dismissal sparked controversy because the SDNY, under his leadership, also oversaw the prosecution of Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and indicted two associates of Giuliani. Critics have accused Barr of partisanship in Berman’s dismissal.
Shortly after Berman’s firing, Nadler said his committee would launch an investigation into the matter, claiming Barr “certainly deserves” to be impeached but would probably escape such a fate because the Republican-controlled Senate would be unlikely to remove him from office.
The attorney general is also facing scrutiny over his role in the handling of protesters on Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1. The protesters were cleared from the area shortly before President Donald Trump and several of his aides made their way across the area to visit the nearby St. John’s church.
Some media reported that the protesters were forcefully removed using tear gas and rubber bullets in order to make way for Trump’s visit to the church, but Barr had repeatedly denied that the two events had any correlation.
Barr said that the decision to clear the park was made before he knew that Trump was going to speak there, and that it was “not an operation to respond to that particular crowd,” but rather an operation to move the perimeter one block following violent riots in the area over the previous few days.
The announcement of Barr’s testimony comes on the same day several DOJ officials are testifying before a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the department.
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.