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 TrumpWe have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity Bob Woodward: I’m 'thankful’ I don’t have to cover Russia probe on 'daily basis' GoFundMe launches ‘Government Shutdown Direct Relief Fund’ for federal workers 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 KlobucharCNN analyst Phil Mudd: Barr will ‘crush’ Trump administration 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Klobuchar dismisses mock campaign logo as something from 'very enthusiastic supporter' 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 FeinsteinBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Feinstein grappling with vote on AG nominee Barr 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 LeahyBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president GOP insiders knock their depictions in new Dick Cheney biopic ‘Vice’ Barr: It would be a crime for president to pardon someone in exchange for their silence 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 SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal 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 GrahamTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Democrats signal they'll reject Trump shutdown proposal Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell 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.