U.S. Attorney General William Barr will not show up before the House Judiciary Committee for his long-awaited hearing, which had been scheduled for Thursday.
The Department of Justice announced Barr’s planned absence in a statement on Wednesday. The announcement came hours after Barr’s contentious hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which he defended his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings from his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Barr and the Justice Department objected to the committee’s plan to have a staff attorney question Barr after members of the committee received their allotted time.
In a statement, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec accused committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) of placing “unprecedented and unnecessary” conditions on Barr’s testimony.
Kupec criticized Nadler’s decision to have staff question Barr, noting that Nadler and other members of the House Judiciary Committee are attorneys who have the “ability and authority to fashion the hearing that allows for efficient and thorough questioning.”
Nadler told reporters Wednesday that he understood why Barr would want to avoid scrutiny but that the attorney general couldn’t dictate the structure of the hearing.
“He is trying to blackmail the committee into not following what we think is the most effective means of eliciting the information we need, and the Congress cannot permit the executive branch, we cannot permit the administration to dictate to Congress how we operate.”
Nadler defended the hearing’s conditions during a news conference on Wednesday, arguing that Barr cannot dictate the structure of the hearing.
Nadler also said that the House committee would issue a subpoena for Barr to testify. If Barr refuses to respond to the subpoena within a few days, the committee will go forward with a contempt proceeding to get the special counsel’s full, unredacted report.
In a letter to Nadler on Wednesday, the Justice Department said it would continue to resist the committee’s attempts to obtain the full Mueller report, including any subpoenas.
“This is not a legitimate use of congressional investigative authority,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd said in the letter.
In response, Nadler said that the Justice Department’s compliance with “congressional subpoenas is not optional.”
The congressman also insisted on Barr’s presence at Thursday’s hearing, which the committee still intends to attend.
“I will continue to work with the Attorney General to reach a reasonable accommodation on access to the full report and the underlying evidence, but not for much longer,” Nadler said.
This article has been updated with Nadler’s comments.