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The Latest: Trump signals he won’t let aides testify

May 2, 2019
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FILE - In this April 4, 2019 file photo, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are to meet with Trump at the White House on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on a House Judiciary Committee hearing about the attorney general’s handling of the special counsel’s Russia report (all times local):

7:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump is signaling he will not allow aides, including former White House counsel Don McGahn, to testify before Congress, opening another front in the showdown between his administration and lawmakers.

Trump says in an interview with Fox News: “They’ve testified for many hours, all of them. I would say, it’s done.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill want McGahn and other key witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe to testify, but White House lawyer Emmet Flood says Trump is reserving the right to assert executive privilege in blocking their testimony.

Trump allowed his advisers to speak with Mueller. He tells Fox News: “I’ve given total transparency. It’s never happened before like this. They shouldn’t be looking anymore. It’s done.”

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5:40 p.m.

Attorney General William Barr has skipped a House hearing on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report, escalating an already acrimonious battle between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s Justice Department.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Barr has already lied to Congress in other testimony and is calling that a “crime.”

University of Chicago professor William Howell says Attorney General William Barr's performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was impressive for its calm, but corroded public perceptions of independence. (May 2)
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Democrats are raising the prospect of holding Barr in contempt after the department also missed the House Judiciary Committee deadline to provide it with a full, unredacted version of Mueller’s report and its underlying evidence.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says if the attorney general doesn’t provide the committee “with the information it demands and the respect that it deserves, Mr. Barr’s moment of accountability will come soon enough.”

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1:30 p.m.

White House lawyer Emmet Flood is objecting to what he calls the “political” report by special counsel Robert Mueller. In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, Flood says President Donald Trump will protect executive privilege in the face of congressional inquiries.

Flood says Mueller’s comments that the president could not be exonerated on obstruction of justice “do not belong in our criminal justice vocabulary,” and says Mueller and his staff “failed in their duty to act as prosecutors and only as prosecutors.”

The White House sent the letter to Barr last month, a day after Mueller’s report was released publicly. Its existence was first reported by CNN.

Flood adds that though Trump allowed his staff to be interviewed by Mueller’s team, he did not waive executive privilege and reserves the ability to instruct his aides to decline to testify in congressional investigations.

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11:20 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is asserting that Attorney General Robert Barr has committed a crime by lying to Congress.

At a news conference Thursday, Pelosi ramped up pressure on Barr, who boycotted a House hearing but testified for several hours Wednesday to a Senate panel about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Pelosi said Barr’s testimony to Congress raised “deadly serious” questions. She said, “The attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United states. That’s a crime.”

Pelosi didn’t say what testimony she was referring to, but Democrats have seized on Barr’s testimony from last month in which he appeared unaware of concerns from Mueller’s team over the way he had characterized their work.

Barr said Wednesday his answer was not misleading because he had been in touch with Mueller, rather than members of his team, and that the concerns were mostly about process and not substance.

Pelosi also said that administration refusals to respect subpoenas by House committee is “very, very serious” and noted that ignoring congressional subpoenas was one of the articles of impeachment against former President Richard Nixon.

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9:50 a.m.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says it’s “pathetic” that Democrats tried to have staff attorneys question Attorney General William Barr. Barr boycotted a House Judiciary hearing Thursday on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Sanders told reporters at the White House after an appearance on Fox News that the decision marks “a pretty pathetic moment” for the committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler.

She says that if Nadler is “not capable of asking the attorney general questions, then maybe he should step down or resign.”

Barr had objected to the format of the hearing after Democrats decided to let staff attorneys conduct a round of questioning after lawmakers were done.

Lawmakers instead faced an empty chair Thursday morning, a day after Barr testified to a GOP-led Senate panel.

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9:40 a.m.

The House Judiciary hearing featuring an empty chair for Attorney General William Barr lasted less than 30 minutes, but the panel says it will continue its investigation.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Barr’s “moment of accountability will come soon enough” if he doesn’t give the committee with the “respect it deserves.”

Barr had been asked to testify about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, but the Justice Department said he would not appear.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., left a prop chicken at the empty witness’ chair. Later, Cohen told reporters, “Chicken Barr should have shown up today and answered questions.”

The Justice Department said Nadler, a Democrat from New York, was trying to place “unprecedented and unnecessary” conditions on the attorney general.

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9:15 a.m.

The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing that isn’t really a hearing, with lawmakers facing an empty chair after Attorney General William Barr informed the panel he wouldn’t show up for the session on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said as the session opened Thursday that Barr has “a choice” whether to stand up to President Donald Trump, who has pledged to fight congressional oversight.

Democratic members of the committee had fun with the spectacle, with Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen bringing buckets of fried chicken and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline jokingly looking under the desk to make sure Barr wasn’t there.

For most of Wednesday, Barr underwent at times scathing questioning by Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House panel is considering holding Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to show.

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12:10 a.m.

There might well be an empty witness chair when the House Judiciary Committee meets to discuss the special counsel’s report and Attorney General William Barr’s handling of it.

Barr has told the Democratic-run committee that he will not appear at Thursday morning’s hearing. The committee’s chairman, New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, says the panel will meet anyway.

For most of Wednesday, Barr underwent at times scathing questioning by Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House panel is considering holding Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to show.

The House panel also is weighing whether to issue subpoenas after the Justice Department let pass a committee deadline to provide the panel with a full, unredacted version of Mueller’s Russia report and its underlying evidence.