Justice Department Pushes Back After Nadler Opens Door to Barr Impeachment

June 25, 2020 Updated: June 25, 2020

The Justice Department (DOJ) on June 25 said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler’s suggestion that his panel could pursue the impeachment of Attorney General William Barr was a “political thing.”

Nadler (D-N.Y.) suggested on June 24 that his committee “may very well” begin impeachment proceedings against the attorney general following an oversight hearing of the DOJ. The top Democrat, who had threatened Barr with a subpoena, launched an investigation into Barr following accusations that the attorney general was politicizing his department and failing to handle appropriately several investigations related to associates of President Donald Trump.

“We’re looking into that,” Nadler told CNN, when asked whether his committee was considering impeaching Barr. His response was a shift in attitude from the weekend, when he told the news outlet that he thought a Barr impeachment would be a “waste of time” because of a Republican-led Senate.

“I think the weight of the evidence and of what’s happened leads to that conclusion,” Nadler said about his reversal.

During a June 25 interview, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec characterized Nadler’s comments as a “political thing.”

“If people have a problem with Bill Barr coming back to the Department of Justice to restore one system of justice, not a two-tiered system, I think that says a lot more about the critics than it does about the attorney general,” Kupec told Fox & Friends. “Because that is what he has done again and again.

“He approaches all cases with an open mind. He judges them according to the facts and the law without regard to political consideration. This is what he promised to do at his confirmation, this is what he has done throughout his tenure as attorney general, and that is what he will continue to do until his last day as AG.”

The DOJ has come under scrutiny multiple times this year for 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 former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Barr also faces criticism and oversight for his role in the handling of protesters on Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1, and the recent dismissal of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman.

As part of his investigation, Nadler invited Barr to testify before his committee. 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 wasn’t able to participate, citing May 29 White House guidance restricting cabinet-level officials from participating in congressional hearings in June during the pandemic (pdf).

Kupec said in a June 24 statement that Barr has once again agreed to testify in Nadler’s committee and is scheduled to appear on July 28.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan