The White House on Friday hit back at Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republicans bash Democrats' China competition bill Man seen wearing 'Camp Auschwitz' sweatshirt on Jan. 6 pleads guilty to trespassing Democrats should ignore Senators Manchin and Sinema MORE (D-Calif.) for accusing Attorney General William BarrBill BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe Jan. 6 committee chair says panel spoke to William Barr William Barr's memoir set for release in early March MORE of committing a crime by lying to lawmakers in sworn testimony.
"The fact that the Speaker would take it upon herself to call him a liar is really, really inappropriate and beneath her office," deputy press secretary Steven Groves said on MSNBC.
Barr has come under intense scrutiny from Democrats, some of whom have called on him to resign and who say he was not truthful during testimony before House and Senate panels in recent weeks.
Groves was shown a clip in which Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristThe Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe Headaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Protecting seniors from guardianship fraud and abuse MORE (D-Fla.) asked Barr during April 9 hearing whether he knew about frustrations from Mueller's team with his March 24 summary of the special counsel's report.
Barr said he did not, but that he suspected they "wanted more put out" from the full report.
Honest questions deserve honest answers. I'm very concerned that Attorney General Barr's answer on April 9, 2019 wasn't honest.— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) May 1, 2019
If that's true, there will be consequences. pic.twitter.com/CP9JHeKvqt
It was revealed this week that Mueller had personally written Barr a letter on March 27 expressing concerns that Barr's memo "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office's work and conclusions."
Groves on Friday defended Barr's comments, arguing the attorney general was responding at the time to a question about those on Mueller’s team quoted anonymously in a New York Times piece, and not Mueller's letter itself.
"In that moment, that was private correspondence between Attorney General Barr and special counsel Mueller," Groves said. "I mean, I don’t know what was going through his head, but one of the things might have been, ‘Hey that was a private exchange, maybe I’m not going to reveal that on national television.’ ”
"Watching that exchange in its totality, the idea that he would be called a liar or accused of perjury is just so outrageous that I don’t even know how to react to it," Groves continued.
Barr has become a focus of Democrats' ire in the wake of the end of the special counsel investigation. Democrats have accused the attorney general of mishandling Mueller's report and spinning a favorable narrative for the president.
The attorney general endured a grilling from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, but refused to attend a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday after the Democrat-run panel voted to allow staff attorneys to ask questions.
Pelosi said Thursday that she "lost sleep" Wednesday night watching replays of Barr's testimony.
Asked directly whether Barr committed a crime, she didn't hesitate.
"He lied to Congress; he lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime," Pelosi said.