Attorney General William Barr will not appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday to answer questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as previously planned, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday evening.
Citing the “unprecedented and unnecessary” conditions placed on Barr’s planned testimony by Congressional Democrats, a Department of Justice spokeswoman announced the attorney general would not return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to further explain his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings.
“Unfortunately, even after the attorney general volunteered to testify, Chairman Nadler placed conditions on the House Judiciary Committee hearing that are unprecedented and unnecessary,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “Congress and the Executive Branch are co-equal branches of government and each have a constitutional obligation to respect and accommodate one another’s legitimate interests. Chairman Nadler’s insistence on having staff question the Attorney General…is inappropriate.”
The announcement comes after the Judiciary Committee voted to allow staff attorneys to question Barr during the Thursday hearing. Barr, who testified for nearly five hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, objected on the grounds that he should only be required to answer questions from lawmakers, as is typically the case when cabinet members testify before Congress.
After new broke that Barr would not attend the hearing, Chairman Nadler said he and his colleagues would gather at the scheduled time in hopes that Barr changes his mind.
“I hope and expect that the Attorney General will think overnight and will be there,” said Nadler, who previously accused Barr of trying to “blackmail the committee” by threatening to cancel his appearance if his demands were not met.
“He’s trying to blackmail the committee into not following the most effective means of eliciting the information we need,” Nadler said on Wednesday. “He is terrified of having to face a skilled attorney.”
Representative Doug Collins (R., Ga.) joined the Department of Justice in blaming Judiciary Democrats for Barr’s cancellation.
“It’s a shame members of the House Judiciary Committee won’t get the opportunity to hear from Attorney General Barr this Thursday, because Chairman Nadler chose to torpedo our hearing. The attorney general gave clear, informative testimony in the Senate Wednesday, as he offered to do more than a month ago in the House tomorrow,” Collins said in the statement. “The attorney general gave clear, informative testimony in the Senate Wednesday, as he offered to do more than a month ago in the House tomorrow.”
A host of Congressional Democrats called for Barr’s resignation on Wednesday in the wake of reports that Mueller objected to the characterization of his investigation Barr provided in his four-page summary of the Mueller report and the attendant press conference.
Barr defended his summary of the Mueller report’s central findings during his Congressional testimony on Wednesday and said that Mueller never objected to his characterization of the report, but rather to the media’s coverage of that characterization.