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House Judiciary to hear whistleblowers on 'politicization' of Justice Dept under Trump
The House Judiciary Committee is planning to hear from whistleblowers inside the Justice Department about the alleged "politicization" of the agency under President Trump and Attorney General William Barr.
The panel's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), announced the hearings on Tuesday, saying they are a response to Barr's continued refusal to appear before his committee.
Nadler said that the hearings will include testimony from DOJ whistleblowers, as well as former department officials, and that they would take place in the coming weeks. The officials will testify about incidents of misconduct and what Nadler dubbed the "unprecedented politicization" of the department.
The move is one of a few steps Nadler said he would take to push back against Barr's actions.
The New York congressman said that he will introduce legislation to slash the budget of Barr's personal office by $50 million. He also noted that he and other members of the Judiciary Committee would file an amicus brief in the case involving former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had previously pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI before withdrawing the plea.
The Justice Department moved earlier this year to dismiss the charge in the case.
"Barr has taken every opportunity to avoid oversight by the committee," Nadler said in a statement, calling the attorney general's behavior "unacceptable."
In a letter to Nadler on Monday, DOJ Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said that Barr would not be able to appear before the committee on June 9 because of White House restrictions put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to White House guidance, cabinet-level officials are barred from appearing before congressional committees in June without approval from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
But Nadler took issue with that position, noting that Barr took time on Monday to appear for a photo-op with Trump outside a historic church near the White House shortly after law enforcement fired tear gas and smoke canisters at protestors peacefully protesting in Lafayette Square.
Barr personally ordered for the perimeter to be extended ahead of the president's visit, according to multiple reports.
"[Barr] told the Committee that he could not find the time to testify because of that epidemic-but took the time to tour the peaceful protests at Lafayette Park just minutes before riot police fired tear gas into the crowd," Nadler said. "Barr has thoroughly corrupted the integrity of the criminal justice system, he has shown contempt for Congress, and the Committee has an obligation to hold him to account."
Nadler has previously hinted that he may issue a subpoena to compel Barr to testify. But he said Tuesday that he wasn't interested in spending months litigating with an official who has "spent years resisting the courts and legitimate congressional oversight."
Barr was initially scheduled to appear before the Judiciary Committee on March 30. However his testimony was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Justice Department said Monday that it would consider rescheduling his appearance once the White House guidelines have expired and the House returns to "regular order."