US Attorney General warns to skip Mueller hearing

US Attorney General William Barr

Washington, US Attorney General William Barr has warned Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee that he won’t show up to this week’s highly anticipated hearing if they stick to the format the chairman has proposed for the questioning, the media reported.

Barr is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, CNN reported.

Skipping this week’s hearing would amount to a dramatic escalation in the growing fight between President Donald Trump’s administration and House Democrats over a range of oversight requests, including over access to the unredacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the subject of Thursday’s hearing.

But it’s still possible they could reach a deal by Thursday, meaning Barr might ultimately show.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler told CNN on Sunday that Barr would not “dictate the format of the Judiciary Committee”.

“The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period,” Nadler, a New York Democrat, said.

Asked what he would do if Barr doesn’t comply, Nadler said: “Then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.”

Nadler, wants to allow all members of his panel at Thursday’s hearing to have one round of questioning of five minutes each, according to an informed source.

He also wants to allow for a subsequent round of questioning of 30 minutes for each side, allowing both parties’ committee counsels to also engage in questioning during their respective turns which has turned into a key sticking point for the Justice Department.

“The Attorney General agreed to appear before Congress. Therefore, members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.

“He remains happy to engage with members on their questions regarding the Mueller report.”

Democrats have slammed Barr’s handling of the end of the Mueller investigation, accusing him of releasing a letter that mischaracterised the Special Counsel’s findings on both collusion and obstruction and raising suspicions over his decision not to prosecute Trump after the probe did not reach a conclusion on Trump.

Barr’s decision to hold a press conference the morning before the report was released was seen by Democrats as a blatant attempt to spin the report in defence of the President.

Barr’s scheduled testimony comes ahead of House Democratic plans for Mueller to also appear next month to discuss the report and investigation.