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The House Judiciary Committee toyed with an empty-seat hearing Thursday at which its witness, Attorney General William Barr, did not appear.
The circus-like atmosphere was evident from the start. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, brought a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a ceramic chicken and shared his meal with his fellow Democrats.
Barr’s absence – what the Attorney General made official on Wednesday evening — escalated the feud between House Judiciary Speaker Jerry Nadler and the Justice Department, where the New York Democrat threatens to despise Barr for Congress.
Nadler’s threat of contempt isn’t tied to Barr’s no-show Thursday, it’s tied to one Subpoena to get the unedited report and underlying evidence from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Special Counsel.
House Democrats are challenging Attorney General William Barr for failing to appear for today’s Judiciary Committee hearing.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 2, 2019
WATCH: Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) pulls out a chicken statue and places it in front of an empty seat where Attorney General William Barr would have sat for the House Judiciary Committee hearing https://t.co/GB1CXMt4Nw pic.twitter.com/vApWmEWpQf
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 2, 2019
The Justice Department told Nadler in a letter Wednesday that it would not comply with the subpoena, accusing her of the subpoena being “not a legitimate oversight” and an “exaggerated and extraordinarily onerous” request. The Justice Department has argued that it made most of the report publicly available and that a dozen congressional leaders can read a less-redacted report with only grand jury material removed.
But Nadler argued that wasn’t enough, saying all members of Congress must be able to read the full report. Nadler said he would continue to negotiate with the Justice Department over the report, but threatened that he would have “no choice but to act quickly to contempt the attorney general for delaying or not negotiating in good faith.”
Despite Barr’s promised absence, Nadler nonetheless walked into the hearing with Hammer, which lasted 15 minutes, according to testimonies from Nadler and top Republican on the panel, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia.
“Given the attorney general’s lack of candor before other congressional committees, I believe my colleagues and I were right to insist on the expanded questioning,” Nadler said.
Collins countered that Nadler had made ridiculous claims and was to blame for the attorney general’s absence.
“As a result of Chairman Nadler’s desperate tactics, we missed another opportunity for closure,” Collins said. “Chairman Nadler has robbed all members and Americans of the opportunity to exercise our oversight responsibilities by questioning and hearing the nation’s top law enforcement official.”
Republicans attempted to extend the hearing by putting parliamentary questions to Nadler, but he relinquished the hearing instead. When Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, spoke up to object to Nadler’s termination of the hearing, his microphone was muted.
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