Barr, Dems fail to reach deal on House testimony

 
The fight sets up a major clash between Barr and Democrats in control of the House Judiciary Committee, who have threatened to subpoena the attorney general to compel his testimony.
 
It also comes as tensions rise over Barr because of Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE's written criticisms of how the attorney general handled the special counsel's report on his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice.
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The Judiciary Committee is still expected to hold the hearing Thursday, even without an appearance from their star witness. Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerSecond Democrat representing Trump district backs impeachment GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' House Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death MORE (D-N.Y.) criticized Barr in remarks to reporters Wednesday evening and accused the Trump administration of trying to dictate the terms of the hearing. Democrats had insisted on committee counsels questioning Barr during Thursday’s proceedings.
 
“He’s trying to blackmail the committee into not following what we think is the most effective means of eliciting the information we need,” Nadler asserted. “We cannot permit the administration to dictate to Congress how we operate."
 
Republicans and the Justice Department blasted Nadler for torpedoing the hearing, pointing to his insistence on having committee staff question Barr.

"Nadler sabotaged his own hearing. That is sad because now Republicans and Democrats are not going to be able to question Bill Barr, who is willing to come voluntarily," Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Democratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal Activist groups push House Judiciary leaders to end mass phone data collection MORE (R-Ga.) said. 

Collins also batted down Nadler’s claims that Barr is afraid of “skilled attorneys,” stating that he has a committee full of members who are skilled attorneys who could conduct the questioning without staff getting involved.

“Why do this to them and take their opportunity to question Bill Barr away? This is nothing more than wanting to have an impeachment-like proceeding without going through the process of impeachment,” Collins said.
 
A Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement that Nadler placed "unprecedented and unnecessary" conditions on the hearing, calling his demands that committee staff question Barr "inappropriate."
 
"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, a Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, is inappropriate," Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.
 
"Further, in light of the fact that the majority of the House Judiciary Committee – including Chairman Nadler – are themselves attorneys, and the Chairman has the ability and authority to fashion the hearing in a way that allows for efficient and thorough questioning by the Members themselves, the Chairman’s request is also unnecessary," Kupec said. "The Attorney General remains happy to engage directly with Members on their questions regarding the report and looks forward to continue working with the Committee on their oversight requests."
 
Barr's appearance had been called into question throughout the week, as the Justice Department objected to Democrats’ plans to allow committee counsels to question the attorney general on his handling of the Mueller report. The attorney general has insisted that only lawmakers themselves ask him questions.

On Wednesday, the Judiciary panel voted along party lines to approve a measure allowing committee staffers to question Barr for an additional hour, despite fierce objections from Republicans.

"I hope and expect that the attorney general will think overnight and will be there," Nadler told reporters on Wednesday evening.

The developments deepen a standoff between Barr and the Democrat-led committee. Nadler had subpoenaed the Justice Department for Mueller’s full report and underlying evidence. Nadler said Wednesday the department had also told Congress it would not comply with the subpoena.

Nadler said he would move forward with contempt proceedings against Barr over the next few days if he does not meet Democrats’ demands for the full report.

“I will continue to work with the attorney general to reach a reasonable accommodation on the access to the full report and the underlying evidence — but not for much longer,” Nadler said.

“If good faith negotiations don’t result in a pledge of compliance in the next day or two, the next step is seeking a contempt citation against the attorney general,” Nadler said. “There are many questions that must be answered.”

When asked whether he would subpoena Barr for his testimony, Nadler said he would not do so on Thursday morning, noting his first priority is to obtain the full report.

Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and faced a barrage of questions on the explosive revelation that Mueller objected to his four-page memo to Congress in writing. Mueller told Barr on March 27 that his summary failed to “fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of his investigation’s findings.

Barr was supposed to testify before the House panel at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDemocratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal DOJ releases notes from official Bruce Ohr's Russia probe interviews CNN slams GOP for not appearing on network after mass shootings, conservatives fire back MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the House Judiciary panel, argued in an interview on Hill.TV on Wednesday that Barr should skip the scheduled appearance.

--Updated at 6:18 p.m.