Democrats are ramping up their efforts to have Attorney General William Barr held to account. Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) sent a joint letter to the bar associations of Virginia and Washington D.C. They requested that the federal government’s top lawman be put under a “professional review” for lying to Congress, and misrepresenting the Mueller report before its release.
“While it would be despicable enough if the Attorney General had thus mischaracterized the report, we now have evidence he appears to have lied to Congress twice about the extent of his knowledge of the Special Counsel’s reaction to Barr’s mischaracterization and support–or lack thereof–for his conclusions,” the lawmakers wrote.
At best AG Barr misled the public. At worst he perjured himself before Congress. We shouldn’t accept that from any attorney, let alone our top law enforcement official.@tedlieu and I have asked the Virginia & DC Bar associations to open an investigation into his conduct. pic.twitter.com/X7RQMJnM6b
— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) May 3, 2019
Barr told Congress in April that he didn’t know if Mueller supported his conclusion, and he didn’t know what was behind reports that members of the Special Counsel’s team was frustrated with his March 24 letter describing the “principal conclusions” of the Mueller report.
Flashback: April 9.
CRIST: Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the Special Counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter … Do you know what they are referencing with that?
BARR: No, I don’t.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 30, 2019
Sen. Chris Van Hollen: “Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 10, 2019
The release of a March 27 letter signed by Mueller complicated matters. In it, the special counsel voiced frustration with how Barr conveyed the final report.
“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions,” said the letter.
With that mind, Rice and Lieu are asking Virginia and D.C. bar officials to look into Barr’s behavior under local rules that covers matters such as making false statements, and obstructing another party’s access to evidence.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has threatened to hold Barr in contempt for snubbing a subpoena to appear before the Committee. He asked him to respond by 9 a.m. on Monday.
I support contempt proceedings against AG Barr if he doesn’t comply w/ the lawful subpoena on Monday.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 3, 2019
Barr, who previously volunteered to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, was concerned about the “format” of the hearing, which would have allowed Republican and Democrat staff attorneys to ask questions.
Law&Crime columnist Elura Nanos previously explored whether Barr committed perjury.
“The short answer is probably not,” she wrote, later adding, “Perjury is a difficult crime to prosecute. While there’s often marked discrepancies between witness testimony and provable fact, it’s the perjurer’s perception of fact that is key. Lack of knowledge, a mistake, difference in interpretation could all be blamed for the intent behind false testimony; whether committed by a sitting attorney general or a jailhouse snitch – perjury is a criminal matter that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Barr’s Congressional testimony may be maddeningly inaccurate, but that doesn’t make it illegal.”
[Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]