The Justice Department has told House Democrats that Attorney General Willam Barr will be a no-show at this week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Mueller report, unless they change their questioning format. At issue, reports CNN, is whether or not Barr would be subjected to 30 minutes of follow-up questions from committee lawyers for each party — as he only wants to face questions from lawmakers, who would only get five minutes each to question the attorney general.
Under the Democrats’ plan, committee counsel would be able to fill in gaps or dig deeper into areas of Barr’s testimony. In other words, lawmakers might not be able to ask all the questions they have, or have enough time to hold Barr accountable over his answers — and a cleanup session by party counsel would solve for that.
It would seem that Barr doesn’t want to face that level of scrutiny or thoroughness, however, and is now threatening abandon his promise to testify if Democrats don’t change the plan.
Responding to that threat on Sunday, Judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler said there would be consequences if the attorney general won’t voluntarily appear. “[Barr] is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period,” Nadler told CNN. If Barr skips the much anticipated hearing, he’ll be served with a subpoena, “and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena,” he added.
Barr, who has long vowed transparency regarding the Mueller report but mostly delivered obfuscation and egregious spin instead, also opposes the Democrats’ plan to take the hearing behind closed doors to go over the unredacted Mueller report, wanting instead to discuss a less redacted version of the report.
CNN notes that there is still time to iron out some kind of deal ahead of Thursday’s hearing, and it’s not clear if Barr is just bluffing in an effort to make his testimony less intensive. But if he skips out on the hearing, it would confirm his and the Trump administration’s disregard for congressional oversight and the rule of law, and — along with the subpoena fight for the unredacted Mueller report, or the efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns — provide yet another path to a constitutional crisis.