Dems go after Barr's head

Democrats outraged over Attorney General William BarrBill BarrDemocrat asks Barr to preserve any records tied to environmental hacking probe Justice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report Ousted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week MORE’s handling of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 PelosiHouse Democrats seek to use spending bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol West Virginia governor issues order for wearing face coverings indoors The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Supreme Court's unanimous decision on the Electoral College 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 Anderson Cooper: Trump's Bubba Wallace tweet was 'racist, just plain and simple' Beats by Dre announces deal with Bubba Wallace, defends him after Trump remarks Overnight Defense: DOD reportedly eyeing Confederate flag ban | House military spending bill blocks wall funding MORE at all costs.

But the political theater — Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenPelosi throws cold water on impeaching Barr Justice Department officials say decisions are politicized Congress must act on police reform, don't let opponents divert the conversation 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) KhannaHouse panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal It's time to eliminate land-based nuclear missiles Stronger patent rights would help promote US technological leadership 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 SwalwellSwalwell: Trump 'makes us look like geniuses every day for impeaching him' Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Democrats face tough questions with Bolton MORE (Calif.), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president MORE (Texas), Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceNew York lawmaker spotted helping mother duck and ducklings cross busy street Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen Hillicon Valley: Tech giants poised to weather coronavirus damage | Record Facebook-FTC deal approved | Bipartisan 5G bill introduced MORE (N.Y.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats hit Trump for handling of Russian bounty allegations after White House briefing Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Democrats face tough questions with Bolton MORE (Calif.) and Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress House approves statehood for DC in 232-180 vote 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 DemingsSusan Rice sees stock rise in Biden VP race Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP Democrats seize on Florida pandemic response ahead of general election 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 NadlerNadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks MORE (D-N.Y.) of making unreasonable demands on Barr’s appearance.

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory Cunningham sets Senate fundraising record in North Carolina in challenge to Tillis Senate outlook slides for GOP 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 RaskinDemocrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems, GOP dig in on police reform ahead of House vote MORE (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor. “But he certainly should resign if he has any professional self-respect left.”

Olivia Beavers contributed.