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The Latest: Pelosi says AG Barr lied to Congress, White House supports his testimony

Posted at 8:48 AM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 11:48:25-04

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on a House Judiciary Committee hearing about the attorney general’s handling of the special counsel’s Russia report (all times local):

11:20 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is asserting that Attorney General Robert Barr has committed a crime by lying to Congress.

At a news conference Thursday, Pelosi ramped up pressure on Barr, who boycotted a House hearing but testified for several hours Wednesday to a Senate panel about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Pelosi said Barr’s testimony to Congress raised “deadly serious” questions. She said, “The attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United states. That’s a crime.”

Pelosi didn’t say what testimony she was referring to, but Democrats have seized on Barr’s testimony from last month in which he appeared unaware of concerns from Mueller’s team over the way he had characterized their work.

Barr said Wednesday his answer was not misleading because he had been in touch with Mueller, rather than members of his team, and that the concerns were mostly about process and not substance.

Pelosi also said that administration refusals to respect subpoenas by House committee is “very, very serious” and noted that ignoring congressional subpoenas was one of the articles of impeachment against former President Richard Nixon.

9:50 a.m.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says it’s “pathetic” that Democrats tried to have staff attorneys question Attorney General William Barr. Barr boycotted a House Judiciary hearing Thursday on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Sanders told reporters at the White House after an appearance on Fox News that the decision marks “a pretty pathetic moment” for the committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler.

She says that if Nadler is “not capable of asking the attorney general questions, then maybe he should step down or resign.”

Barr had objected to the format of the hearing after Democrats decided to let staff attorneys conduct a round of questioning after lawmakers were done.

Lawmakers instead faced an empty chair Thursday morning, a day after Barr testified to a GOP-led Senate panel.

9:40 a.m.

The House Judiciary hearing featuring an empty chair for Attorney General William Barr lasted less than 30 minutes, but the panel says it will continue its investigation.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Barr’s “moment of accountability will come soon enough” if he doesn’t give the committee with the “respect it deserves.”

Barr had been asked to testify about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, but the Justice Department said he would not appear.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., left a prop chicken at the empty witness’ chair. Later, Cohen told reporters, “Chicken Barr should have shown up today and answered questions.”

The Justice Department said Nadler, a Democrat from New York, was trying to place “unprecedented and unnecessary” conditions on the attorney general.

9:15 a.m.

The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing that isn’t really a hearing, with lawmakers facing an empty chair after Attorney General William Barr informed the panel he wouldn’t show up for the session on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said as the session opened Thursday that Barr has “a choice” whether to stand up to President Donald Trump, who has pledged to fight congressional oversight.

Democratic members of the committee had fun with the spectacle, with Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen bringing buckets of fried chicken and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline jokingly looking under the desk to make sure Barr wasn’t there.

For most of Wednesday, Barr underwent at times scathing questioning by Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House panel is considering holding Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to show.

12:10 a.m.

There might well be an empty witness chair when the House Judiciary Committee meets to discuss the special counsel’s report and Attorney General William Barr’s handling of it.

Barr has told the Democratic-run committee that he will not appear at Thursday morning’s hearing. The committee’s chairman, New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, says the panel will meet anyway.

For most of Wednesday, Barr underwent at times scathing questioning by Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House panel is considering holding Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to show.

The House panel also is weighing whether to issue subpoenas after the Justice Department let pass a committee deadline to provide the panel with a full, unredacted version of Mueller’s Russia report and its underlying evidence.

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