Barr’s tes­ti­mony on Mueller for House panel in doubt

The Tribune (SLO) - - News - BY MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASH­ING­TON

The Jus­tice Depart­ment has in­formed the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that At­tor­ney General Wil­liam Barr may skip a Thurs­day hear­ing on spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s report if com­mit­tee lawyers seek to ques­tion him.

The Demo­cratic-run com­mit­tee plans to allow coun­sels from both sides to ask Barr about the Rus­sia probe after the tra­di­tional round of ques­tion­ing by law­mak­ers. Depart­ment of­fi­cials also told the com­mit­tee that they op­posed a plan to go into a closed ses­sion if mem­bers wanted to dis­cuss redacted por­tions of Mueller’s report, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior Demo­cratic aide on the com­mit­tee, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the con­fi­den­tial com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the depart­ment.

Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman Kerri Ku­pec said given that Barr had agreed to tes­tify, law­mak­ers “should be the ones do­ing the ques­tion­ing. He re­mains happy to en­gage with mem­bers on their ques­tions re­gard­ing the Mueller report.”

Barr is sched­uled to tes­tify be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day and the House panel on Thurs­day. The GOP-led Se­nate com­mit­tee is ex­pected to have nor­mal rounds of mem­ber ques­tion­ing.

It is un­usual for com­mit­tee coun­sels to ques­tion a wit­ness. But com­mit­tees can gen­er­ally make their own rules, and other pan­els have made sim­i­lar ex­cep­tions. In a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh last year, for ex­am­ple, Re­pub­li­cans on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hired an out­side pros­e­cu­tor to ques­tion a wit­ness who had ac­cused Ka­vanaugh of sex­ual as­sault.

The dis­pute comes as ten­sions have es­ca­lated sharply be­tween House Democrats and the Trump administration over full ac­cess Mueller’s report and gov­ern­ment wit­nesses who have de­fied con­gres­sional sub­poe­nas to tes­tify. Democrats have been ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing the hear­ing with Barr as they try to build on Mueller’s find­ings with their own in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

House Democrats have sub­poe­naed the Jus­tice Depart­ment for the unredacted ver­sion of the Mueller report and un­der­ly­ing ma­te­rial gath­ered from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In re­sponse, the Jus­tice Depart­ment has said they will make the full report, mi­nus grand jury ma­te­rial, avail­able to a lim­ited group of mem­bers – an of­fer that Democrats have so far re­fused.

A spokes­woman for the top Repub­li­can on the com­mit­tee, Rep. Doug Collins of Ge­or­gia, noted that Barr’s tes­ti­mony is vol­un­tary and crit­i­cized the Democrats for not read­ing the full report. “Democrats have yet to prove their de­mands are any­thing but abu­sive and il­log­i­cal in light of the trans­parency and good faith the at­tor­ney general has shown our com­mit­tee,” Jes­sica An­drews said.

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