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House Democrats Respond to AG Barr’s Stonewalling with DOJ Whistleblowers Hearing and Major Budget Cut

The House Judiciary Committee announced plans to hear testimony from several DOJ whistleblowers and cut the budget of the attorney general’s personal office as part of a series of actions designed to counter Attorney General William Barr’s “refusal” to testify before the panel. One day after Barr refused a second invitation to provide testimony, Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said the committee would answer his “defiance of Congress” by scheduling hearings with several former officials concerning the “improper politicization” of the DOJ under Barr’s leadership.

“In the coming weeks, the Committee will hear testimony from DOJ whistleblowers and former Department officials. These individuals are prepared to describe specific incidents of misconduct, as well as the unprecedented politicization of the Department of Justice under President [Donald] Trump and Attorney General Barr,” a press release from the panel stated.

Nadler also promised to: introduce legislation that would slash the budget of the Attorney General’s personal office by $50 million; file an amicus brief opposing the DOJ’s motion to drop the criminal charges against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

The Flynn prosecution is a primary example of a case in which Barr has “improperly interfered for the benefit of President Trump and his political allies,” the panel stated.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd on Monday informed the Judiciary Committee that Barr could not appear before the Committee next week, citing the “ongoing COVID-19 pandemic” and restrictions issued by the White House prohibiting cabinet level officials from testifying before Congress in June without the approval of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

In an accompanying statement, Nadler said that Barr had “been given ample opportunity” to appear but consistently refused. Nadler also said that Barr similarly refused to appear before the Committee during his first stint as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.

“The Attorney General’s behavior is unacceptable. He continues to undermine his career staff in a flailing effort to erase the findings of the Mueller investigation. He refuses to answer questions about actions taken by the Department during the coronavirus epidemic,” Nadler said. “He told the Committee that he could not find the time to testify because of that epidemic—but took the time to tour the peaceful protests at Lafayette Park just minutes before riot police fired tear gas into the crowd. Mr. Barr has thoroughly corrupted the integrity of the criminal justice system, he has shown contempt for Congress, and the Committee has an obligation to hold him to account.”

Chairman Nadler said he specifically chose not to subpoena Barr, as the attorney general and the Trump administration have already shown they will resist “legitimate congressional oversight” in the courts.

“I am not going to spend months litigating a subpoena with an Attorney General who has already spent years resisting the courts and legitimate congressional oversight—but neither will we stand by and allow Mr. Barr to continue to corrupt the Department. We do not take these actions lightly or with any sense of joy. We have both a duty and a moral obligation to protect the rule of law in our country, and we intend to do just that,” Nadler said.

The Committee did not say exactly who they plan to have testify about Barr’s tenure at the DOJ, nor did they provide specific dates for the hearings.

[image via  PBS screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.