Attorney General William Barr made good Thursday on his threat to skip a House hearing into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and all hell is breaking loose in Washington.
Barr refused to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report because he didn;t want to answer additional questions by staff lawyers. The hearing was to have been his second day of testimony about the investigation and his handling of the special counsel’s final report. Barr spent four hours before a Senate panel on Wednesday.
Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., blasted President Donald Trump’s administration of ignoring subpoenas and refusing to testify, a pattern he said reflects an effort to prevent Congress “from providing any check whatsoever to even his most reckless decisions.”
“The challenge we face is that if we don’t stand up to him together, today, then we risk forever losing the power to stand up to any president in the future,” Nadler said.
“The very system of government of the United States, the system of limited power, the system of not having a president as a dictator is very much at stake,” he went on.
“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. Every one of us must make the same choice,” he added.
“That choice is now an obligation of our office. 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. We have seen in other countries what happens when you allow such moments to pass by.”
“I do not know what Attorney General Barr will choose. I do not know what my Republican colleagues will choose,” he said. “But I am certain that there is no way forward for this country that does not include a reckoning with this clear and present danger to our constitutional order.”
“If he does not provide this committee with the information it demands and the respect it deserves,” Nadler said, “Mr. Barr’s moment of accountability will come soon enough.”
Mueller’s full report identified “systematic” efforts by the Kremlin to intercede in the 2016 election by hacking emails and posting disinformation to help Trump win, and it detailed how Trump and his aides appeared to welcome that help. The report did not reach a conclusion about whether Trump had sought to obstruct justice.
“The next step is to hold the attorney general in contempt for failing to comply with our subpoena,” Rep. David Cicilline, R.I.
Another step would be to subpoena Barr to testify. And Democrats plan to call Mueller to testify, tentatively scheduled for May 15.
“We need to hear from Robert Mueller,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.