The Justice Department slams Pelosi for her baseless assertions. Department officials said members should conduct the questioning, and said it was unclear why Democrats did not propose having staffers simply provide questions to the members during the hearing.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed Thursday in a dramatic press conference that Attorney General Bill Barr committed a crime in sworn testimony last month, ratcheting up the latest war of words to paralyze Washington in the Trump era.
‘He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime,’ Pelosi told reporters. ‘Nobody is above the law. Not the President of the United States and not the attorney general.’
Barr testified April 9 in a House hearing that ‘no, I don’t’ know why some members of special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team were frustrated by the nature of what he released to Congress on March 24.
With this week’s revelation of a March 27 letter in which Mueller told Barr he was displeased with how little material had been made public, that statement appears to have given Democrats a new weapon. Barr, however, plans to stick to his guns, according to a Justice Department official.
During a House Appropriations Committee, Florida Democratic Rep. asked: ‘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, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?”
Barr said he didn’t. He added: ‘I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize.’
A DOJ official predicted on Thursday that Barr will stand by his claim that Crist’s question was poorly worded since it asked about Mueller’s team of lawyers and not the special counsel himself.
‘Crist asked it wrong. AG Barr did what good witnesses do: he didn’t answer a question that wasn’t asked,’ the official told DailyMail.com.
‘When a prosecutor asks you if you know what time it is, you don’t tell him it’s 12:30. If you know, the answer is yes. You don’t volunteer anything. We all learn that in law school.’
Officially, a Justice Department spokesperson issued a terse statement: ‘Speaker Pelosi’s baseless attack on the Attorney General is reckless, irresponsible and false.’
The March 27 letter from Mueller to Barr came three days after Barr released his four-page top-line results to a bipartisan quartet of congressional leaders from both judiciary committees.
He wrote that Barr’s limited disclosures had resulted in ‘public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigation.’
Barr said Wednesday that he decided against releasing the Mueller report ‘piecemeal,’ describing the report as ‘my baby’ at the point it hit his desk.
He also described the letter as ‘a bit snitty,’ and suggested someone on Mueller’s staff wrote it.
Pelosi’s esclation came hours after House Judiciary Committee Democrats briefly gaveled in a hearing where Barr had expected to testify for a second day in a row, after sitting for an extended Senate grilling on Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler lectured the Trump administration, facing an empty chair, while other Democrats ate KFC and displayed a plastic chicken to frame Barr as a coward.
‘The committee will act upon how it will proceed,’ Pelosi said Thursday, cryptically forecasting what could happen next.
‘How sad it is for us to see the top law enforcement officer in our country misrepresenting, withholding the truth from the Congress of the United States,’ she said.
Crist said late Weddnesday that Barr was parsing words and should have understood the spirit of the question he asked on April 9.
‘He not only misled the House of Representatives but also the United States Senate. When you’re doing that then you’re lying to the American people and if the chief legal officer of the United States is willing to do that, that erodes confidence in our institutions. That’s just unacceptable,’ he said.
Crist added that Barr should resign.