House Democrats threaten to “eliminate” Barr’s office budget if he doesn't comply with subpoena

Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler threatens to go after Barr's agency budget if he refuses to testify before the House

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 23, 2020 12:19PM (EDT)

U.S. President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr speak in the Oval Office before signing an executive order related to regulating social media (Doug MIlls-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr speak in the Oval Office before signing an executive order related to regulating social media (Doug MIlls-Pool/Getty Images)

The House Judiciary Committee plans to issue a subpoena to William Barr, and its chairman has already threatened to "eliminate" the attorney general's office budget should he refuses to comply.

Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is expected to issue a subpoena for Barr to testify before the panel on July 2 in the wake of the firing of Geoffrey Berman, Axios first reported. Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, investigated Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and others in the president's orbit.

A spokesman for Nadler confirmed to the outlet that the subpoena would be issued if Barr does not agree to voluntarily testify next week.

In a letter obtained by Axios, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the committee, told Nadler that Barr, whose earlier scheduled testimony was postponed due to the new coronavirus, "remains willing to testify voluntarily once the pandemic concludes."

But Nadler on Monday told MSNBC that the committee had "begun the process to issue that subpoena." The move comes after Nadler said last month that such a subpoena was not worth the legal battle.

"I am not going to spend months litigating a subpoena with an attorney general who has already spent years resisting the courts and legitimate congressional oversight," he said back in June.

But the reversal came after Barr ordered the firing of Berman last week. Berman inititally refused to step down after meeting with Barr, but he ultimately agreed to step down a day later after Barr said President Donald Trump would replace him with his deputy. Trump later denied that he had anything to do with the move.

A day before Barr abruptly announced the firing, Berman refused to sign a letter criticizing New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's social distancing restrictions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Nadler said there would be consequences if Barr does not comply with the subpoena.

"We can eliminate his office budget," he told MSNBC. "There are a number of things we can do, which we will do."

He told CNN one day earlier that Barr "deserves impeachment" for politicizing the Justice Department.

"I don't think calls for [Barr's] impeachment are premature, any more than calls for the president's impeachment were premature," he said. "But they are a waste of time at this point, because we know that we have a corrupt Republican majority in the Senate, which will not consider an impeachment no matter what the evidence and no matter what the facts."

"So we're instead going to do what we have to do without that, including barring $50 million from his own personal budget," he said.

Nadler has repeatedly called on Barr to testify about similar controversial moves, such as when the Justice Department intervened in the cases of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.

Some of the committee members echoed Nadler's calls after the firing of Berman.

"As I have said for months: Bill. Barr. Must. Testify. And it is long past time a subpoena is issued for him to do so," Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., tweeted.

Barr has yet to testify before the Judiciary Committee since he took office last year. He rejected a request after Democrats planned to use counsel to question him. He agreed to testify in March, but that hearing was pushed back due to the coronavirus. Nadler later scrapped a June hearing after the Justice Department said Barr was banned by the White House from testifying during the pandemic.

Even before the subpoena threat, Nadler said the panel would "immediately open an investigation" into Berman's firing.

"Attorney General Bill Barr told us that Geoffrey Berman of the SDNY had resigned — which was untrue. Barr told us that the president asked him to fire Mr. Berman — which may also be untrue, given that the president says he had nothing to do with the decision," Nadler said in a statement. "The whole thing smacks of corruption and incompetence, which is what we have come to expect from this president and his attorney general."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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