WASHINGTON — Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is in the middle of moving offices. The art is being taken off the walls and boxed up, but that hasn’t stopped the Minnesota senator from entertaining guests. A little silver tray with paper cups sat ready and waiting Thursday afternoon — a testament to the fact that Klobuchar, who maintains a low profile relative to some of her colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee, gets results. In short time, William Barr, President Trump’s nominee to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, was coming over for coffee.
Some background: Barr is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation hearings next week. But until Thursday he was refusing to meet with most Democratic members of the committee responsible for vetting him — including Klobuchar.
On Wednesday night, the senator tweeted that she and her colleague, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), had both been told that Barr would not meet with them until after his hearing before the committee. “The reason given? The shutdown. Yet shutdown didn’t stop him from other mtgs. This is a 1st for me w/any nominee as a member of judiciary,” Klobuchar wrote.
“Memo To Whoever Is In Charge,” she wrote in a second tweet Thursday morning, “Last time I checked, AG nominee Barr was not a furloughed worker. Why was shutdown given as reason for him not meeting w/me before hearing like every other nominee has done w/judiciary Senators? I even met w/head of patents once. Will serve coffee.”
Within hours, Barr would sit down in her office.
“I just think they did this way last minute, deliberately,” Klobuchar tells Rolling Stone. “And thought that no one would complain.”
Still, she adds, “I was shocked because we’ve never not met with a high-level cabinet member when you’re on the committee. Never.”
Not all of Klobuchar’s Democratic colleagues sought meetings with the nominee, but, she says, she likes them.
“It helps you prepare for the hearing, very much so, and also you get to know them, because even if you don’t vote for them — which, usually, you know, with a lot of these guys: you aren’t — you have a relationship, which is important.”
Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, also wanted answers as to why Barr’s ethics reports have not all been submitted to the committee. She also has questions about a memo that Barr authored back in June 2018 that argued President Trump’s interactions with James Comey did not constitute obstruction of justice. (Barr was a private citizen at the time.)
“I was joking that most of my citizens would write like 19-character things, not 19 page memos,” Klobuchar says.
And Barr, like Justice Brett Kavanaugh, with whom Klobuchar famously spared during his confirmation hearings this past fall, holds an expansive view of executive power.“Not a big surprise,” she adds, dryly, given the administration that’s put his nomination forward. Klobuchar tells Rolling Stone she intends to ask Barr a few questions about that too.
Minutes before Barr was set to arrive Thursday afternoon, the only thing missing was the coffee. Where was it? the senator asked, looking at the half-empty tray. They were just bringing it down, an aide replied, reminding her she’d promised to serve it hot.