Dems go after Barr's head

Democrats outraged over Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrACLU says it will 'sue swiftly' over Trump administration ending asylum protections Trump to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants at US-Mexico border This week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt MORE’s handling of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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 PelosiNYT's Friedman repeatedly says 's---hole' in tirade against Trump on CNN GOP lawmaker: Trump's tweets 'obviously not racist' On the USMCA, Pelosi can't take yes for an answer 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 John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE at all costs.

But the political theater — Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenTed Cruz blasts Tennessee GOP governor for declaration honoring early KKK leader GOP senator presses Instagram, Facebook over alleged bias in content recommendations Pro-impeachment Democrats say Mueller testimony could be 'turning point' 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) KhannaThe Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran 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 SwalwellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 jitters hit both parties in the Senate Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out MORE (Calif.), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarOcasio-Cortez defends being sworn in at hearing on conditions for migrants Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy Pelosi takes fire from progressives over border MORE (Texas), Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceDemocrat offers measure to prevent lawmakers from sleeping in their offices Hillicon Valley: Pelosi blasts Facebook for not taking down doctored video | Democrats push election security after Mueller warning | Critics dismiss FCC report on broadband access | Uber to ban passengers with low ratings Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars MORE (N.Y.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify Mueller to give extended testimony after appearance postponed Mueller testimony likely to be delayed for one week MORE (Calif.) and Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersFed chief basks in bipartisan praise as lawmakers dismiss Trump attacks Hillicon Valley: Trump officials to investigate French tax on tech giants | Fed chair raises concerns about Facebook's crypto project | FCC blocks part of San Francisco law on broadband competition | House members warn of disinformation 'battle' Fed chief: Facebook crypto project poses 'serious concerns' for economy, consumers 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 DemingsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Acosta resigns amid controversy over Epstein plea deal The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Democrats rush to support Pelosi amid fight with Ocasio-Cortez 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 NadlerTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) of making unreasonable demands on Barr’s appearance.

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic infighting threatens 2020 unity 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 RaskinThe Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy NYT: Don't make Acosta a political martyr MORE (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor. “But he certainly should resign if he has any professional self-respect left.”

Olivia Beavers contributed.