Washington: US Attorney General William Barr has on Wednesday declined to testify before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee over his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia meddling the 2016 US presidential election.
The development came after Democrats asked Barr to face questions from the body’s lawyers, a decision taken after a referendum on Wednesday. Barr had previously objected to a plan for lawyers to ask questions at Thursday’s hearing, the BBC reported.
Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler accused the White House of a “complete stonewalling of Congress”. Mueller is expected to testify to Congress later this month.
The standoff raises the prospect that Barr, America’s top legal official, could be held in contempt of Congress.
The defence of his actions before the Republican-led Senate Justice Committee came after Special Counsel Robert Mueller — who led the investigative hunt for links between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia — expressed frustration over the report summary.
A Department of Justice statement stated Nadler had placed conditions on the House Judiciary Committee hearing that were “unprecedented and unnecessary”.
The department said that the planned move to have attorneys question Barr was unnecessary because most of the committee members were themselves, lawyers.
However, Nadler told reporters he believed that Barr was afraid to testify on Thursday gave “how dishonest he has been”.
“We plan on subpoenaing him if he decides not to show up. He can run but he can’t hide,” he said. “I hope and expect that the attorney general will think overnight and will be there as well,” he added.
He testified for the first time on Wednesday since the release of Mueller’s 448-page report. The special counsel did not establish any collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
However, the report did not exonerate the president of the obstruction of justice. It concluded the Republican president had repeatedly intervened with an inquiry that he feared would doom his presidency.
Barr, who was appointed by Trump, told the Senate Judiciary Committee he was “frankly surprised” Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether the president had tried to obstruct justice.
Barr added that he was “absolutely” confident in his own judgment that Trump did not unlawfully attempt to impede the investigation.
“I think that if he felt that he shouldn’t go down the path of making a traditional prosecutorial decision, then he shouldn’t have investigated,” he said.
Barr’s testimony came after a letter he had received from Mueller was made public.
In the document, the special counsel stated that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his report’s findings, and caused “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation”.
Last month, Barr released the redacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe reports. Though, Mueller didn’t conclude that the US president had committed any obstruction of justice, but also didn’t exonerate him either.
- 2nd version of Robert Mueller’s probe report to be released: USA