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Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are refusing to give in to Attorney General William Bill Barr’s threat to potentially be a no-show a hearing this week at which he is to be the star witness.
Barr, who has become controversial in recent weeks for his interpretation of the Mueller Report, has threatened not to appear at the hearing because he opposes the format of allowing him to be questioned by committee attorneys.
That position is unacceptable, according to Democrats.
“He is not going to dictate the format of the Judiciary Committee. What we are planning to do is that after the members finish questioning for five minutes, the Democratic Counsel will have half an hour to question and the Republican Counsel will have half an hour to question. That’s a standard method of doing things,” said committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “Sometimes it’s used, sometimes is not. It’s, in my judgment, an effective way of doing things. And the witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.), a Judiciary Committee member, noted that Barr’s apparent stance is just in keeping with what has become an across-the-board dictate from Donald Trump to the officials in his administration to not cooperate with any oversight or subpoena.
“Well, let me say I’m not going to–and I don’t think the Judiciary Committee is going to–accept any rejection or refusal by Mr. Barr. If we have to, [the committee will] take this to the highest court in the land. We hope we will not have to do that,” she said. “But let me be clear, he is following the tone and the admonitions set by the president, who wants to create a constitutional crisis. The president wants to lead us down a path that Democrats are trying to be deliberate and thoughtful and to get to the truth.
“The president has now changed his tune on the Mueller Report,” Jackson-Lee added. “He’s castigating Director [Robert Mueller] and he’s saying this report is not truthful. He’s attacking [former White House counsel] Mr. [Don] McGahn. He wants to now pull back on his complimentary words when he thought the American people were buying into his narrative that he had been exonerated. They know he’s not been exonerated. They know he has been associating with Russian operatives, the adversary of the United States.”
Meanwhile, Robert Reich, who served as Labor secretary during the Clinton administration and has been a prominent progressive activist in recent years, penned an essay for Newsweek titled, “Congress Should Be Ready To Arrest Attorney General William Barr if He Defies Subpoena.“
“What could the Committee do? Hold Barr in contempt of Congress—under Congress’s inherent power to get the information it needs to carry out its constitutional duties. Congress cannot function without this power,” Reich explained.
“Under this inherent power, the House can order its own sergeant-at-arms to arrest the offender, subject him to a trial before the full House, and, if judged to be in contempt, jail that person until he appears before the House and brings whatever documentation the House has subpoenaed,” Reich added.
He notes that this actually hasn’t been tried since 1935, and it’s not likely that the American people would be witness to a Barr takedown on live TV, as the Trump administration would undoubtedly take the matter to the Supreme Court on an expedited basis.
And, Reich pointed out, with two Trump appointees on the high court, an outcome is far from assured.
Still, Reich concluded, “Congress has a constitutional duty to respond forcefully, using its own inherent power of contempt.”