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Dems go after Barr's head

Democrats outraged over Attorney General William BarrBill BarrEnergized Trump probes pose problems for Biden Pavlich: Biden can't ignore defund the police contributions to violent crime spike Progressives slam Garland for DOJ stances on Trump-era cases MORE’s handling of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s report are increasing their fire, threatening to hold him in contempt and even suggesting they could seek his impeachment.

The cries for Barr’s head exploded on Thursday after the attorney general skipped a House hearing one day after his testimony before a Senate panel shed new light on his differences with Mueller, the ex-FBI chief who led a two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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Democrats left an empty chair for Barr as they opened a hearing that would go nowhere. Afterward, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Set millions of tires on fire, pay less than ,000 On The Money: Biden announces bipartisan deal on infrastructure, but Democratic leaders hold out for more Democrats seek to calm nervous left MORE (D-Calif.) led her press conference by accusing Barr of committing a crime.

“He lied to Congress, and if anybody else did that it would be considered a crime,” she said. “Nobody is above the law; not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.”

Pelosi did not rule out jail time as a potential punishment if Barr is later found to have broken the law.

“I really lost sleep last night after watching over and over again this testimony of the attorney general of the United States,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi’s harsh denunciation of Barr reflects the real anger of rank-and-file Democrats, who see him as a political operative seeking to protect President TrumpDonald Trump Pence said he's 'proud' Congress certified Biden's win on Jan. 6 Americans put the most trust in their doctor for COVID-19 information: poll OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Biden administration to evacuate Afghans who helped US l Serious differences remain between US and Iran on nuclear talks l US, Turkish officials meet to discuss security plans for Afghan airport MORE at all costs.

But the political theater — Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenWray grilled on FBI's handling of Jan. 6 Viola Fletcher, oldest living survivor of Tulsa Race Massacre, testifies in Congress 'seeking justice' Lobbying world MORE (D-Tenn.) showed up with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken at the early-morning hearing to make a point about Barr’s lack of courage — obscured the fact that in focusing their ire on Barr, Democrats were not focused on impeaching his boss, a more divisive issue in the party.

Asked about the status of the Trump impeachment effort, Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaCalifornia Democrats clash over tech antitrust fight Tech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup Democrats fear they are running out of time on Biden agenda MORE (D-Calif.) acknowledged the scrutiny, at least this week, has veered elsewhere.

“I'm hearing about the impeachment for Bill Barr,” Khanna said. “I think he needs to resign, and he's been probably the most guilty of obstructing an investigation.”

Democrats have long been wary of Barr, who had raised eyebrows last year in arguing that Mueller had no basis for investigating Trump for obstructing justice. But the Democrats’ reservations with the attorney general have mushroomed this week after revelations that Mueller was frustrated with Barr’s initial framing of the investigators’ findings — and had expressed that agitation directly to the attorney general.

Mueller’s concerns consumed much of the oxygen during Barr’s appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Democrats hammered Barr to explain testimony he gave last month, when he suggested Mueller’s team had no problems with Barr’s summary of the report.

Multiple Democrats called for Barr to resign or be impeached, including Reps. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellHillicon Valley: House advances six bills targeting Big Tech after overnight slugfest | Google to delay cookie phase out until 2023 | Appeals court rules against Baltimore Police Department aerial surveillance program California Democrats clash over tech antitrust fight House advances five bills targeting Big Tech after overnight slugfest MORE (Calif.), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarDemocrats introduce equal pay legislation for US national team athletes Abbott signs bill making concealed carry without permits legal in Texas Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe MORE (Texas), Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHouse moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill House GOP campaign arm adds to target list Lawmakers brace for bitter fight over Biden tax plan MORE (N.Y.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocratic lawmakers not initially targeted in Trump DOJ leak probe: report Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight Schiff calls Iranian presidential election 'predetermined' MORE (Calif.) and Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersHouse passes veterans contraception, LGBTQ business bills previously blocked by GOP The folly of a government-issued credit score Maxine Waters: Trump, campaign should be investigated for any Jan. 6 role MORE (Calif.).

Swalwell accused Barr of prejudging the special counsel's report, accusing the FBI of lying, lying to Congress and refusing to comply with a subpoena “all to protect the president.”

“There's only one thing left to do. Impeach him,” tweeted Swalwell, a member of the House Judiciary Committee who is running for president.

“He has abdicated on his responsibility. He has lied,” Waters, the House Financial Services Committee chairwoman, said of Barr on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes” Tuesday night.

Another Judiciary Committee member, Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsFlorida governor adept student of Trump playbook It's past time we elect a Black woman governor Demings raises million after announcing Senate bid against Rubio MORE (D-Fla.), called for Barr to resign and endorsed the idea of holding him in contempt of Congress.

“He has proven incapable of obeying the oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Demings said.

Republicans rushed to Barr’s defense, accusing House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBritney Spears case casts harsh light on conservatorships Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas MORE (D-N.Y.) of making unreasonable demands on Barr’s appearance.

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisBill ending federal unemployment supplement passes North Carolina legislature Senate Republicans: Newly proposed ATF rules could pave way for national gun registry Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor blasting Democrats for allowing Cohen to mock Barr.

“You tell me whether or not the chair of that committee is actually serious about the subject when you've got a guy eating fried chicken in place of where they wanted Attorney General Barr to be,” Tillis said as he stood by an enlarged photo of Cohen eating the chicken.

“This guy didn't even have good enough sense to have Bojangles chicken,” Tillis added.

Democrats are vowing to press on, although some suggested a focus on ousting Barr might be a waste of time, since Trump would likely choose a replacement with similar legal views.

“The illusory thing about resignation as a remedy is the suggestion that somebody better might come back later. I hold out no hopes for that,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben Raskin House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters MORE (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor. “But he certainly should resign if he has any professional self-respect left.”

Olivia Beavers contributed.