Attorney General refuses House testimony on Mueller report

As one contentious hearing wraps Barr may not appear before House tomorrow

US Attorney-General William Barr dismisses 'snitty' complaints over handling of Mueller's report on Donald Trump

Attorney General William Barr has informed lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee that he will skip a Thursday hearing on special counsel Robert Mueller's report, escalating an already acrimonious battle between Democrats and the Justice Department.

"The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law", the Mueller report states.

Nadler said he wouldn't immediately issue a subpoena for Barr's testimony but would first focus on getting the full Mueller report, likely including a vote holding Barr in contempt of Congress.

Despite Barr's announcement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler went ahead with the hearing - leaving an empty chair for the Attorney General.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., placed a prop chicken on the witness desk for Attorney General William Barr after he does not appear before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2019.

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Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, accused Barr of lying to lawmakers about his interactions with Mueller after the special counsel concluded his 22-month investigation into Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump's candidacy.

Right from the start, Graham made clear that he did not see the hearing as an opportunity to clear up the remaining confusion about key differences between Barr's initial statements on the Mueller report and the details in the Mueller report itself.

The Democratics have said there was precedent for committee staff to question cabinet-level officials and Senate-confirmed officials, citing political scandals including the Watergate break-in of the 1970s and the Iran-Contra scandal of 1987. Barr had been scheduled to appear at that hearing, but announced on Wednesday night that he would not.

However, Mr Nadler told reporters he believed that Mr Barr was afraid to testify on Thursday given "how dishonest he has been". Mueller urged Barr twice to release the executive summaries and redacted report that Mueller and his team prepared for Barr.

Barr is under fire for how he characterized the Mueller report in a summary on March 24, several weeks before the findings were released.

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"I hope and expect the attorney general will think overnight and will be there as well", Nadler said.

The letter squarely attacks the Mueller team for not making a decision on obstruction of justice, a federal crime in which someone "corruptly" attempts to "influence, obstruct or impede" the "due and proper administration of the law" in a pending proceeding, according to federal code. "Not the President of the United States, and not the attorney general", she said.

"The challenge we face is also bigger than the Mueller report".

Nadler said he would weigh a contempt citation against Barr if the unredacted version of the report was not released. At one point, when he couldn't answer Senator Amy Klobuchar's question about whether Mueller reviewed President Trump's taxes, Barr said, "You could ask Bob Mueller when he comes here". It's unclear what House Democrats can do to force Barr's appearance, since Congress has limited tools to punish him if he doesn't comply with a subpoena.

Republicans objected to Nadler's demands and say the staff questioning is unnecessary.

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