The Justice Department has informed the House Judiciary Committee that Attorney General William Barr may not attend a Thursday hearing to review special counsel Robert Mueller’s report due to objections over the panel’s format, according to a Democratic senior committee aide.
The department has balked at the panel’s plans to allow the committee’s counsels from both sides to question Barr after the traditional round of questioning by members. Justice officials also told the committee that they are opposed to the panel’s plan to go into a closed session if members want to discuss redacted portions of Mueller’s report, according to the aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the confidential communications with the Justice Department.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the dispute.
Fox News has learned that Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., wants to have Judiciary Committee staff — rather than members of Congress — question Barr on his handling of Mueller’s report. But DOJ officials say members should conduct the inquiry.
“The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress; therefore Congress does the questioning,” a DOJ official told Fox News.
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.
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.
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. The dispute could eventually end up in court.
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.