House Judiciary Democrats Set to Grill Attorney General Barr

July 28, 2020by Todd Ruger, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)
U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 1, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Ken Cedeno/Sipa USA/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have wanted to question Attorney General William Barr at an oversight hearing for more than a year, so they have a dizzying list of controversial topics for what promises to be a highly watched showdown Tuesday.

It will be Barr’s first public testimony before a committee that has some of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken critics, at a time when the nation’s focus increasingly turns to the presidential election less than 100 days away.

Until now, House Democrats have been increasingly frustrated in any effort to force Barr’s compliance with congressional oversight demands. The House already found Barr in contempt of Congress last year in connection with stonewalling oversight attempts.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York filed legislation to defund Barr’s personal office by $50 million this month for defiance of Congress, and committee members have called for Barr’s impeachment or the use of Congress’ inherent contempt power to fine officials.

Last month, the Judiciary Committee spent a hearing focusing on Barr’s actions. Right now, he is the only attorney general in modern times to have never testified before the committee — but that is set to change Tuesday.

His appearance would end a standoff between Barr and the Judiciary Committee that stretches back to at least May 2019. Barr eventually had agreed to testify March 31, but the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled that hearing.

Barr then cited the pandemic again when he declined the committee’s invitation to reschedule the hearing for June 9, which prompted Nadler to call a hearing about Barr last month, with testimony from two Justice Department lawyers and former officials.

Democrats are expected to drill down on their concerns that Barr is misusing the Justice Department with actions that support Trump’s reelection campaign and personal interests, such as Barr’s role in federal officers using tear gas to disperse protesters at Lafayette Square near the White House ahead of a photo opportunity with Trump holding a Bible.

There’s the Trump administration’s expanding use of federal officers in cities such as Portland, Oregon, which committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland dubbed a “banana-republic-style secret police unit,” and the administration’s latest effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census.

There are criticisms about how Barr removed the federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, where there are investigations that might affect Trump and his associates, a move that prompted Nadler to say Barr “clearly cares very little about the law.”

Barr has a federal prosecutor investigating the origins of the department’s Trump-Russia investigation and hasn’t ruled out that it could result in criminal charges ahead of the November election.

He also leads a Justice Department that dropped the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and sought a reduced sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone for convictions that include lying to Congress about investigations focused on Trump.

And there’s Trump’s pardon of Stone, which makes it almost certain a committee member will ask about Barr’s comments during his own confirmation hearing that it would be a crime for a president to offer a pardon in exchange for a witness’s silence.

But those are just the events from the past few months.

Concerns from committee Democrats stretch back to early 2019, and they still want Barr to answer for what they say was misleading the public about what former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found out about Trump during a 20-month investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

And Democrats want to question Barr about long lists of Justice Department stances in lawsuits that back the Trump administration or the president himself. That includes two cases now at the Supreme Court: the Trump administration’s current legal push to wipe out the 2010 health care law and to prevent the Judiciary Committee from seeing grand jury materials from the Mueller probe.

Barr’s term at the Justice Department also includes an ongoing fight against congressional subpoenas for Trump’s personal and business financial records at the Supreme Court, as well as blocking testimony before the committee of former White House counsel Don McGahn and the release of Trump’s tax returns.

Democrats also have concerns about the Justice Department’s actions when it comes to immigration enforcement, the department’s approach on voting rights in the upcoming election and the way it has interjected itself into legal challenges to COVID-19-related orders from state governors.

Republicans, for their part, will likely focus on their view that Barr is fixing the problems of the Obama-era department and that’s why Democrats are going after him. And Barr, in previous congressional testimony and in television interviews, has vigorously defended his actions.

———

©2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Congress

Members Request Investigation of Multibillion Dollar Pentagon Contract
Congress
Members Request Investigation of Multibillion Dollar Pentagon Contract
August 5, 2020
by Reece Nations

WASHINGTON – Two members of Congress have penned letters requesting a probe into the Pentagon’s decision to grant a multibillion dollar moving contract to American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group Inc. The three-year, $7.2 billion contract would privately outsource the management of service members’ household goods, according... Read More

Carolyn Maloney Prevails in Primary After Weeks of Vote Counting
Elections
Carolyn Maloney Prevails in Primary After Weeks of Vote Counting

WASHINGTON — New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney has won her primary after six weeks of vote counting in the 12th District. New York City Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez confirmed Tuesday night that the board certified Maloney as the primary winner. The board... Read More

Senators Look to Break Deadlock With Small-Business Proposals
Business
Senators Look to Break Deadlock With Small-Business Proposals

WASHINGTON — Sens. Marco Rubio and Susan Collins have introduced legislation to extend a popular small-business relief program past its Aug. 8 expiration date as talks between Republicans and Democrats on a larger relief package appear deadlocked. Florida’s Rubio and Maine’s Collins introduced two proposals that... Read More

McConnell to Support White House-Democrats Deal, If One Can be Struck
Political News
McConnell to Support White House-Democrats Deal, If One Can be Struck

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he’d support whatever agreement the Trump administration and congressional Democrats reach on a coronavirus relief package, even if he has “some problems with certain parts of it.” The Kentucky Republican, who is up for reelection in November,... Read More

Confusing Georgia Law at Heart of Debate Over Lewis’ Successor
Law
Confusing Georgia Law at Heart of Debate Over Lewis’ Successor

ATLANTA — Shortly after U.S. Rep. John Lewis died, grieving Democrats were faced with two difficult choices: tap a replacement for the late civil rights icon on the ballot within days or slow the process and risk a legal challenge. Democratic insiders decided to hold a... Read More

Senators Say After Pandemic, Extending Broadband to Underserved Areas a Must
Technology
Senators Say After Pandemic, Extending Broadband to Underserved Areas a Must
August 4, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan trio of senators urged their colleagues Tuesday to create a $10 billion fund to extend broadband cable access into underserved rural communities. The Governors' Broadband Development Fund bill was introduced by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and his co-sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top