Attorney General William Barr a No-Show at House Judiciary Committee Testimony

"That's a crime", Pelosi said at her weekly press conference.

Rep. Ted Lieu took the criticism of Attorney General William Barr to a new level Thursday morning after the AG chose to skip what would have been a remarkably contentious hearing before the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, on Thursday accused Republican Attorney General William Barr of lying to Congress in his descriptions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. That was when the attorney general said he was not aware of any concerns raised by special counsel Robert Mueller's team over Barr's now-notorious four-page summary of Mueller's 448-page report detailing a almost two-year-long investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump's alleged obstruction of justice.

The speaker's blunt words about the nation's top law enforcement official came as Democrats have ratcheted up their fight with Barr, calling on his resignation and even threatening to hold him in contempt of Congress for failing to adhere to a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to provide the full, unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence.

With Mueller not reaching a decision on the obstruction question, Barr said he concluded no criminal charges against Trump were warranted. "And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime".

"We will have no choice but to move quickly to hold the attorney general in contempt if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith", said Nadler.

"The reason Bill Barr is not here is because Democrats decided they didn't want him here", he said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec called Pelosi's allegation "reckless, irresponsible and false".

The piece also dismantles a "perjury" allegation against Barr, and scolds Mueller's team over their pointless letter complaining about the atmospherics surrounding Barr's entirely accurate four-page memo: "Particularly troubling [to them] was that it wasn't damning enough of the president".

Nadler, D-N.Y., and the Justice Department traded barbs shortly after Barr informed lawmakers of his decision on the hearing, with Nadler saying the attorney general is "trying to blackmail the committee" by setting his own terms. During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Barr defended his handling and release of Mueller's report, despite a complaint from the special counsel by letter that the attorney general's initial summary of his findings caused "public confusion". The report did find that Trump and his campaign did not engage in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow.

Instead, Mueller produced "a prosecutorial curiosity - part "truth commission" report and part law school exam paper", the letter said.

The special counsel's report also said that "the investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation".

In the April letter, Flood blasted the Mueller report as defective and political. A vote of the full House on contempt would send a criminal referral to the US attorney for the District of Columbia - a Justice Department official who is likely to defend the administration's interests.

Pelosi said Trump's "blanket statement that he's not going to honour any subpoenas is obstruction of justice".

The White House conclusion was an indication that Trump would, if necessary, declare executive privilege to prevent former lawyer Don McGahn and other advisers from testifying to Congress, which would likely trigger a court battle.

  • Tracy Klein