The breakdown of constitutional norms during the Trump administration has gotten worse since the release of the Mueller report.
After a transparent attempt to misrepresent the report’s findings to the public with pre-release media presentations that painted a much rosier portrayal of the president’s actions than the report warranted, Attorney General William Barr has given every indication that he is willing to protect Trump from the consequences of his efforts to halt both the Mueller probe while it was underway and any further investigations into its findings by the Democrat-controlled House of representatives.
With Barr facing a scheduled appearance in front of the House Judiciary Committee this Thursday to answer questions regarding his decision making surrounding the results of the report, the Attorney General dropped a bombshell warning to Democrats on the committee this morning that he may decide to just not show up for the hearing, according to a report from CNN.
Given President Trump’s declaration of complete non-cooperation with the legitimate and constitutionally mandated congressional oversight into the executive branch — exercised through his refusal to allow White House staff and cabinet members to respond to committee subpoenas in an act that begs for contempt of Congress citations — there is no longer any doubt that the U.S. government is facing a full-blown constitutional crisis.
Barr seems to think that he has the right to dictate to the Judiciary Committee the format of its own hearings and the circumstances under which he will be questioned, warning that if Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) sticks to his proposed method of questioning, the Attorney General may refuse to submit to the congressional grilling.
Congressman Nadler has suggested that, given the importance of the matter at hand, he wants an additional 30 minutes for each party to allow their committee counsels to question Barr, on top of the traditional five minutes each member normally gets.
The Justice Department indicated through a spokesperson that the additional questioning by committee counsel is Barr’s primary objection to the format that Representative Nadler has proposed.
“The Attorney General agreed to appear before Congress. Therefore, Members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning. He remains happy to engage with Members on their questions regarding the Mueller report,” said spokesperson Kerri Kupec.
Chairman Nadler responded to the Attorney General in an appearance on CNN this morning that let Barr know that he would have to face the consequences if he refused to deal with the Judiciary Committee on its own terms, saying that he would not allow Barr to “dictate the format of the Judiciary Committee.”
“The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period,” Nadler said, defiantly.
“Then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.”