Blumenthal: DOJ denying Dems meetings with AG nominee Barr, citing shutdown

Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), claimed Wednesday that the Justice Department (DOJ) is denying Senate Democrats meetings with William Barr, President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE's nominee for attorney general, due to the partial government shutdown.

Blumenthal in a statement on Wednesday called Barr's "refusal" to meet with Democrats "unprecedented and unacceptable." 

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"William Barr’s refusal to meet with Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee is entirely unprecedented and unacceptable," Blumenthal said in a statement sent to The Hill. "The Department of Justice’s attempt to excuse this gross break in the norms by citing a 'truncated schedule' is galling when they are the ones who have rushed it."

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Equifax breach settlement sparks criticism The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Mueller ahead of testimony MORE (D-Minn.) said late Wednesday that she was also unable to get a meeting with Barr due to the shutdown.

"I tried (as did Blumenthal) to get meeting w/AG nominee Barr and was told he couldn’t meet until AFTER the hearing. The reason given? The shutdown," Klobuchar tweeted. "Yet shutdown didn’t stop him from other mtgs. This is a 1st for me w/any nominee as a member of judiciary."

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinOvernight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief Bipartisan senators fight 'political considerations' in EPA's new FOIA rule Top Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties MORE (Calif.), the panel's top Democrat, is scheduled to speak with Barr on Thursday, her spokeswoman told The Washington Post. A spokesperson for Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief Bipartisan senators fight 'political considerations' in EPA's new FOIA rule Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning MORE (D-Vt.) told The Hill that he is also expected to meet with Barr on Thursday.

The Hill has reached out to other Senate Judiciary Democrats and the DOJ for comment. 

DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told the Post that Barr is meeting with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle "despite the holidays, reduced DOJ staff and resources due to the partial government shutdown, and the compressed timeline to prepare for the upcoming hearing."

The DOJ is one of the agencies affected by the partial government shutdown, which began on Dec. 22 and impacts roughly 25 percent of the government. Emails and phone calls to the DOJ from The Hill received responses that the department is currently unable to reply to inquiries due to the shutdown.

"My Republican colleagues should share my outrage at this appalling violation of the Senate’s independent authority," Blumenthal said in his statement.

The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold hearings next week for Barr.

Democrats have roundly criticized the nominee over a memo he wrote last year criticizing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE's Russia investigation. Barr, in a memo to the White House, said Mueller's probe into possible obstruction of justice by Trump was based on a "fatally misconceived" theory.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOn The Money: Trump, Congress reach two-year budget, debt limit deal | What we know | Deal gets pushback from conservatives | Equifax to pay up to 0M in data breach settlement | Warren warns another 'crash' is coming Overnight Defense: Iran's spy claim adds to tensions with US | Trump, lawmakers get two-year budget deal | Trump claims he could win Afghan war in a week Trump, Democrats clinch two-year budget deal MORE (D-N.Y.) has called for Trump to withdraw Barr's nomination over the memo, as Democrats claim it is disqualifying because it displays bias against Mueller.

Barr met with Republican senators on Wednesday. The Judiciary Committee's new chairman Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says he will call Papadopoulos to testify GOP group defends Mueller ahead of testimony The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony MORE (R-S.C.) after he left the meeting said Barr has a "very high opinion of Mr. Mueller and he is committed to letting Mr. Mueller finish his job." 

“He’s got some concerns about turning the firing of a political appointee into an obstruction-of-justice case, and I share those concerns,” Graham told reporters. “But that’s his opinion as a private citizen. As an attorney general, his job is to receive Mr. Mueller’s report.”

— Updated 11:30 p.m.