Democrats outraged over Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrWall Street Journal editorial board: Dems vilifying Barr for ‘acting like a real Attorney General’ Biden says Barr ‘should’ resign: ‘He’s lost the confidence of the American people’ Clinton: Calling for Barr resignation ‘makes perfect sense’ MORE’s handling of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s report are increasing their fire, threatening to hold him in contempt and even suggesting they could seek his impeachment.
The cries for Barr’s head exploded on Thursday after the attorney general skipped a House hearing one day after his testimony before a Senate panel shed new light on his differences with Mueller, the ex-FBI chief who led a two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats left an empty chair for Barr as they opened a hearing that would go nowhere. Afterward, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiSenators ramp up privacy bill work Why any infrastructure package must harness Main Street Trump ally in House calls for doubling gas tax to pay for infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.) led her press conference by accusing Barr of committing a crime.
“He lied to Congress, and if anybody else did that it would be considered a crime,” she said. “Nobody is above the law; not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.”
Pelosi did not rule out jail time as a potential punishment if Barr is later found to have broken the law.
“I really lost sleep last night after watching over and over again this testimony of the attorney general of the United States,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s harsh denunciation of Barr reflects the real anger of rank-and-file Democrats, who see him as a political operative seeking to protect President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives seize on Alabama state Dem’s abortion comments NYT disciplines editor after publishing cartoon depicting anti-Semitic tropes Wall Street Journal editorial board: Dems vilifying Barr for ‘acting like a real Attorney General’ MORE at all costs.
But the political theater — Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenDem lawmaker: Mueller must resign so he can testify ‘free’ from Barr’s ‘control’ Dems set to debate Trump impeachment in post-Mueller era Patricia Arquette to push for ERA at hearing MORE (D-Tenn.) showed up with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken at the early-morning hearing to make a point about Barr’s lack of courage — obscured the fact that in focusing their ire on Barr, Democrats were not focused on impeaching his boss, a more divisive issue in the party.
Asked about the status of the Trump impeachment effort, Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaThe Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Biden denies treating Anita Hill ‘badly’ Dem race shows signs it could get nasty The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump tells House investigators ‘no’ MORE (D-Calif.) acknowledged the scrutiny, at least this week, has veered elsewhere.
“I’m hearing about the impeachment for Bill Barr,” Khanna said. “I think he needs to resign, and he’s been probably the most guilty of obstructing an investigation.”
Democrats have long been wary of Barr, who had raised eyebrows last year in arguing that Mueller had no basis for investigating Trump for obstructing justice. But the Democrats’ reservations with the attorney general have mushroomed this week after revelations that Mueller was frustrated with Barr’s initial framing of the investigators’ findings — and had expressed that agitation directly to the attorney general.
Mueller’s concerns consumed much of the oxygen during Barr’s appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Democrats hammered Barr to explain testimony he gave last month, when he suggested Mueller’s team had no problems with Barr’s summary of the report.
Multiple Democrats called for Barr to resign or be impeached, including Reps. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellCalifornia Democrats post tributes to former Rep. Ellen Tauscher Ex-Clinton aide jokes that Dem candidate could ‘shoot my dog’ and still have his support Eric Swalwell qualifies for the Democratic debates MORE (Calif.), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarHispanic Caucus asks for meeting with top immigration official Border Dems introduce resolution condemning Trump’s closure threats From avocados to beer: 5 areas taking a hit if Trump closes southern border MORE (Texas), Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements New York Rep. Maloney endorses Gillibrand for president Hispanic Dems ask for multi-agency meeting on family separations MORE (N.Y.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump attorneys say banks have agreed not to turn over financial records until court ruling Warren calls for Barr to resign MSNBC fact-checks Graham live during Barr hearing MORE (Calif.) and Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersTrump attorneys say banks have agreed not to turn over financial records until court ruling NY man sentenced to prison for racist death threats to Obama, Waters Federal judge rejects Trump request to dismiss Democrats’ Emoluments Clause lawsuit MORE (Calif.).
Swalwell accused Barr of prejudging the special counsel’s report, accusing the FBI of lying, lying to Congress and refusing to comply with a subpoena “all to protect the president.”
“There’s only one thing left to do. Impeach him,” tweeted Swalwell, a member of the House Judiciary Committee who is running for president.
“He has abdicated on his responsibility. He has lied,” Waters, the House Financial Services Committee chairwoman, said of Barr on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes” Tuesday night.
Another Judiciary Committee member, Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsHouse Dems seek to make officials feel the pain Pelosi: Dems may get to impeachment, but ‘we’re not there yet’ Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment MORE (D-Fla.), called for Barr to resign and endorsed the idea of holding him in contempt of Congress.
“He has proven incapable of obeying the oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Demings said.
Republicans rushed to Barr’s defense, accusing House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDem lawmaker says Barr will be subpoenaed if he fails to show for House hearing Executive privilege case law favors Trump, not Nadler Some Dem chairmen have changed tune on Trump impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.) of making unreasonable demands on Barr’s appearance.
Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill’s Morning Report – The heat turns up on Bill Barr Gun control group sues FEC over alleged failure to act against NRA Dem super PAC campaign urges Republicans to back impeachment MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor blasting Democrats for allowing Cohen to mock Barr.
“You tell me whether or not the chair of that committee is actually serious about the subject when you’ve got a guy eating fried chicken in place of where they wanted Attorney General Barr to be,” Tillis said as he stood by an enlarged photo of Cohen eating the chicken.
“This guy didn’t even have good enough sense to have Bojangles chicken,” Tillis added.
Democrats are vowing to press on, although some suggested a focus on ousting Barr might be a waste of time, since Trump would likely choose a replacement with similar legal views.
“The illusory thing about resignation as a remedy is the suggestion that somebody better might come back later. I hold out no hopes for that,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinTop Dem: Supreme Court has ‘no role’ in impeachment Dems plot aggressive post-Mueller moves, beginning with McGahn House Dem calls on lawmakers to ‘insulate’ election process following Mueller report MORE (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor. “But he certainly should resign if he has any professional self-respect left.”
Olivia Beavers contributed.