Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary committee on Thursday to discuss the Mueller report, but Barr and committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) are currently sparring in the press about the conditions of his testimony. Barr has threatened not to show up to the hearing if Nadler doesn’t change the format of the questioning.
“The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period,” Nadler told CNN in response to Barr’s threat. He went on to say that if Barr refuses to comply, “then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.”
Nadler has proposed that each member be allowed to question Barr for five minutes. Then, in a second round of questioning, both sides would have 30 minutes during which committee counsel would question the attorney general. But the counsel’s questions are what Barr is opposed to.
“The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress. Therefore, members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning,” a Justice Department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said. “He remains happy to engage with members on their questions regarding the Mueller report.”
Barr also declined Nadler’s proposal to allow members to question him in a closed-door session to discuss the redacted portions of Mueller’s report.
Nadler’s idea to have lawyers question a witness is not unprecedented—remember how Republicans brought in an outside prosecutor to question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and then-Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh—but it is unusual. Other times committee counsel have been involved in questioning include the Iran-Contra and Whitewater hearings. Nadler wants to get lawyers involved to follow-up on technical legal questions that members of Congress might overlook.
“The only thing, apparently, that will satisfy Democrats, who refuse to read the less-redacted report, is to have staff pinch hit when a cabinet official appears before us,” a spokesperson for the House Judiciary Committee Republicans said, according to CNN.
Barr is currently scheduled to appear before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. There have been no public disputes thus far about the conditions of his testimony there.