In one corner, we have congressional Democrats, eager to skewer Barr for seemingly lying during his April testimony before the House; admitting he hadn’t actually read the underlying evidence submitted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election; failing to show up at a scheduled House Judiciary Hearing on Thursday; or any number of other potentially disqualifying behaviors—it’s really something of a free for all at this point.
In the other, we have the Republicans, circling the MAGA wagons in order to deflect criticism that Barr seems to be acting a lot less like the head of a federal department and a lot more like the president’s personal attorney.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy emphatically defended Barr. Yes, there is a liar here, McCarthy insisted. But it’s not Barr, it’s House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, whom Barr conspicuously snubbed, leaving Democrats to eat chicken and yell at an empty chair at their hearing this morning.
North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis got in on the action as well, calling the Democrats efforts to question Barr “theater, some of it almost to the level of comedy.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have quickly ramped up their calls to hold Barr accountable for his handling of the Mueller report.
Calling Barr’s conduct a “crime,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused the Attorney General of “misrepresenting, withholding the truth from the Congress of the United States.” (A Justice Department spokesperson pushed back on Pelosi’s comments, saying her “baseless attack on the Attorney General is reckless, irresponsible and false.”
Still, despite blatantly accusing Barr of being a criminal, Pelosi stopped short of actually calling for his imprisonment or impeachment, saying instead that “There’s a process involved here,” adding “the committee will act upon how we will proceed.”
Still other members of her party haven’t been quite so gun-shy.
A number of prominent Democrats, including 2020 presidential candidates Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand, have all called for Barr to step down in recent days, while Rep. Eric Swalwell skipped over offering Barr the chance to resign and instead called for his impeachment.
For his part, Trump still seems solidly behind his AG, saying, “He did a fantastic job” at his Senate testimony on Wednesday.