Dems want Justice IG to investigate Barr

Democrats are trying to convince the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrUkrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Will Democrats be up to the task of publicly interviewing Mueller? A question for Robert Mueller MORE in the wake of 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 probe.

Senate Democrats realize they have almost no shot at convincing the Republican majority to dig into Barr’s actions since the Russia investigation wrapped up in March, and little leverage to force GOP senators, who are eager to move on, to the negotiating table.

Instead, they’re focusing their efforts on winning over the Justice Department’s top watchdog, putting the inspector general in the middle of a fight between Senate Democrats and Barr.

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The Justice Department's Inspector General declined to comment about the requests from Congress.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) is one of the Democrats pressing for Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate Barr. He argues that it’s the only option with the Senate Judiciary Committee all but blocked off as an avenue for further investigations.

“I want an answer as soon as possible by an independent, objective investigator,” Blumenthal said about his decision to request an inspector general probe. “So far the chairman of the Judiciary Committee has indicated less than robust interest in having either Mueller testify or seeking an answer to those questions.”

Blumenthal and Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Overnight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits MORE (D-R.I.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker Joint chiefs nominee: Trump's transgender policy about 'standards' MORE (D-Hawaii) sent a request this week for an investigation into if Barr discussed spin-off cases from the Mueller report with the White House, including the names of the cases.

Barr told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that he had not had “substantive” talks with White House staff about the 14 cases Mueller referred to the Justice Department but that “it’s possible a name of a case was mentioned.”

Blumenthal said that he wants to know “what those conversations were,” and appeared skeptical that Barr wouldn’t be able to recall talks he had with the White House about adjacent investigations.

“He says he can’t recall. It strikes me as strange if you can’t recall a discussion with the White House about an ongoing investigation, but he also revealed information about the investigation which raises serious questions,” Blumenthal added.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Biden's lead narrows in early voting states: poll New CBS poll shows Biden with 7-point lead in New Hampshire MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee who is running for the party’s White House nomination, sent a request to Horowitz on Friday asking for an investigation into whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE or White House staff asked Barr to open investigations into anyone.

Harris questioned Barr on the issue during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing. Barr, who appeared to be caught off guard, hesitated, asking Harris to repeat the question and saying that he was “trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’ ”

Roughly a dozen Senate Democrats, led by Hirono, have also asked for an investigation into a laundry list of Barr’s actions, including his decision not to recuse himself; his press conference held hours before the redacted report’s release; and his decision to let Trump's attorneys review the report before it was released.

The Democrats want to know if allowing Trump’s attorneys to review the report was consistent with Justice Department practices.

Asked why she sent the request to Horowitz instead of trying to take it through the Judiciary Committee, Hirono fired back: “The Senate Judiciary Committee? I think you just answered your question, really.”

“I think we heard Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Democrats should rise above and unify against Trump's tweets US-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' MORE say it’s over, moving on,” Hirono said brushing her hands together to illustrate Graham’s attitude. “I don’t know what we’re moving on to.”

Hirono, a member of the panel, added that it was “appropriate” for the inspector general to look into “how Barr handled the entire Mueller matter.”

It’s not the first time Horowitz has found himself in the middle of a political firefight.

Republicans seized on his report of the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report A question for Robert Mueller MORE’s email server, which hammered top brass at the Justice Department and FBI for actions they took during the probe. Republicans are also closely awaiting the results of his investigation into whether the FBI followed its protocols in seeking surveillance warrants related to the Trump campaign.

The clamor by Senate Democrats for Horowitz and the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate Barr’s handling of the Mueller report comes as Senate Republicans are stressing that they are ready to move on.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE (R-Ky.) sparked a political firestorm on Tuesday when he summarized the two-year investigation as a “case closed” and described Democrats as “grieving” over Mueller’s findings.

“What we've seen is a meltdown, an absolute meltdown, an inability to accept the bottom-line conclusion on Russian interference from the special counsel's report," McConnell said from the Senate floor.

McConnell also lashed out at Democrats targeting Barr over his handling of the Mueller report, saying they were “shooting any messenger who tells them inconvenient truths.” 

House Democrats are currently locked in a fierce fight with Barr, who backed out of his scheduled appearance last week before the House Judiciary Committee. The panel is scheduled to vote Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt for failing to respond to a subpoena for Mueller’s full report and investigative files. The Justice Department has accused Democrats of making unreasonable demands.

Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has shown no interest in investigating Barr, and has been lukewarm about holding a hearing for Mueller to testify. He has said that he would be willing to have Mueller testify on any disagreements he had with Barr during a call after the completion of his report.

Graham aligned himself with McConnell on Tuesday, saying of the Mueller probe: “It’s over.”