Attorney General Bill Barr has denied allegations that he is thwarting efforts to get special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress.
"It’s Bob’s call whether he wants to testify," Attorney General Barr told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday as he left on a plane en route to El Salvador. He added, most likely in reference to his upcoming international trip, that "I’m trying to break away from Washington and do the real work of the attorney general."
Barr's reference to "the real work of the attorney general" involves his attempt to foster international cooperation in America's effort to combat MS-13, a notoriously violent street gang with roots in the U.S. and Central America. While this trip may advance one of Trump's policy goals, it also conveniently places Barr out of the country even as congressional Democrats attempt to get his testimony regarding Mueller's report on the Trump-Russia scandal, as well as an unredacted version of the report itself.
"We will use the subpoena power and any other legal power we have with respect to Mr. Mueller…in order to do our job of holding this administration accountable," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told CNN. Nadler is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is demanding an unredacted copy of the Mueller report.
Earlier this month, Nadler called for Barr's impeachment after a letter Mueller revealed the attorney general had misled the public about the contents of his report in order to paint the president in a more favorable light.
"The special counsel’s concerns reflect our own. The attorney general should not have taken it upon himself to describe the special counsel’s findings in a light more favorable to the president. It was only a matter of time before the facts caught up to him," Nadler wrote in a statement published by Medium.
He later added, "Attorney general Barr also should not have withheld this letter from Congress for as long as he has. I have demanded a copy from the Department of Justice. I have asked that it be delivered no later than 10:00 tomorrow morning."
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., expressed a similar thought when he tweeted that "Barr’s answer to @RepCharlieCrist, denying knowledge of Mueller’s concerns over his summary, was deliberately false and misleading. If he were an ordinary citizen, it might be considered perjury. As our top law enforcement official, it’s even worse. He must step down." Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a 2020 presidential candidate, has proposed a series of reforms to make the attorney general's office independent from the president, and told Salon last week that he did so in part to address the scandals that have arisen from Barr's behavior.
"There is a level of frustration where the attorney general is supposed to be representing people in America, right?" Hickenlooper told Salon. "He is entrusted with the primary responsibility to maintain what people call the rule of law, the foundation upon which our democracy and our economy are built. And clearly, at least in my opinion, he has taken on the task of defending a president without, as close as I can tell, without defending the institutions of government. So the notion — our goal was to figure out: How can we create a more perfect union, a more perfect system of providing safeguards against this happening again in the future?"