May 2 (UPI) — A House judiciary committee hearing went on Thursday without U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who declined to appear and take questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election — prompting lawmakers to trade barbs.
Barr announced his plan to skip the House hearing Wednesday after testifying before the Senate judiciary committee. He’d said he opposed the format of the House hearing, at which Democrats wanted to have a counsel question him.
Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., accused the Trump administration of ignoring the committee’s subpoenas in order to prevent lawmakers “from providing any check whatsoever to even his most reckless decisions.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., suggested the committee hold Barr in contempt for failing to comply with its subpoena.
Things took a theatrical turn when Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., brought in a bucket of KFC chicken and a ceramic chicken into the hearing and set them on the table where Barr would have been seated.
The panel’s ranking Republican, Rep. Doug Collins, described the hearing as a political stunt to prevent Barr from wanting to testify.
“They want it to look like an impeachment hearing because they won’t bring impeachment proceedings,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who does not sit on the judiciary committee, accused Barr of lying to Senate lawmakers in Wednesday’s testimony about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation.
“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States,” she said during her weekly news conference. “That’s a crime.
“Nobody is above the law.”
Trump lawyer Emmet Flood wrote a letter April 19 to Barr that accused Mueller of playing politics by saying the report “does not exonerate” Trump on obstruction of justice claims.
“Because they do not belong in our criminal justice vocabulary, the SCO’s inverted proof standard and “exoneration” statement can be understood only as political statements, issuing from persons (prosecutors) who in our system of government are rightly expected never to be political in the performance of their duties,” Flood wrote.
The letter is also critical of Mueller for not fulfilling his obligation to “make a prosecutorial decision on obstruction.”
Flood also counters claims by Democrats that the Mueller report could be a road map to impeaching Trump.
“If that was in fact the [special counsel office’s] intention, it too serves as additional evidence of the SCO’s refusal to follow applicable law,” Flood said.