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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure 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 KlobucharFox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall 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 FeinsteinThis week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks Senate confirms Rosen for No. 2 spot at DOJ Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips 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 LeahyGraham says Bolton briefed him on Iran, tells Trump to 'stand firm' Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible 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 MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 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 GrahamTensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress Press: Justin Amash breaks ranks with party Overnight Defense: Iran tensions swirl as officials prepare to brief Congress | Trump threatens war would be 'end of Iran' | Graham tells Trump to 'stand firm' | Budget talks begin 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.