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 TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated 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." 

ADVERTISEMENT

"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 KlobucharAmy Poehler reveals which Dem candidates her 'Parks and Recreation' character might vote for Harris's stepkids call her 'Momala' Sanders joins striking workers at UCLA in first 2020 California visit 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 FeinsteinGOP lawmaker offers constitutional amendment capping Supreme Court seats at 9 Overnight Energy: Judge halts drilling on Wyoming public lands over climate change | Dems demand details on Interior's offshore drilling plans | Trump mocks wind power Dem senators demand offshore drilling info before Bernhardt confirmation hearing 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 LeahyCitizens lose when partisans play politics with the federal judiciary Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Patrick Leahy sits at center of partisan judicial nominations 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 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 Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar 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 GrahamThe Memo: Trump can't let go of McCain grudge The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans Trump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP 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.