Pushing off impeachment, Dems find unity attacking Barr
WASHINGTON — Democrats are splintered by calls to impeach President Donald Trump. But they have found another common enemy and an alternate political foil in Attorney General William Barr.
Calls for Barr’s resignation erupted across the Democratic Party this week after he testified before the Senate and rebuffed the House twice, first by denying Democrats a full, unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and then by skipping a hearing to review it. In response, Democrats threatened to hold Barr in criminal contempt of Congress — a lengthy legal process that could go on for months.
The feud with Barr has animated Democrats and temporarily shifted attention away from impeachment — and by extension, the party’s divisions over whether to pursue it. But with Trump resisting other congressional investigations, and testimony from Mueller likely on the horizon, the impeachment question seems unlikely to subside for long.
For now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who would lead impeachment proceedings, are putting their emphasis on investigating Trump, his business dealings and his administration. If Democrats do decide to impeach the president, they will have already made part of the case through oversight. Trump’s refusal to comply with their requests — with Barr just the latest example — will only strengthen the case.
“Impeachment is never off the table, but should we start there? I don’t agree with that,” Pelosi said Friday at an event in Medford, Mass.
Pelosi hasn’t held back in her criticism of Barr, accusing him of committing a crime by lying to Congress about his communications with Mueller. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec called Pelosi’s accusation “reckless, irresponsible and false.”
Other members of Pelosi’s caucus are going after the attorney general in even stronger terms.
“This is serious misconduct, this is a serious effort by the administration to prevent Congress from doing its oversight, and in fact could form the basis by itself of articles of impeachment,” said Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the Judiciary panel, after Barr skipped the hearing Thursday.
Republicans say the Democrats are focusing on Barr as a substitute for impeachment, to avoid the political backlash that would come with official proceedings against Trump.
Attorney General William Barr speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Mueller Report on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.