House Speaker Nancy Pelosi alleged Thursday that Attorney General Bill Barr “lied to Congress” and reportedly told colleagues in a closed-door meeting that he committed a crime -- prompting a fiery rebuke from the Justice Department.
Pelosi, D-Calif., addressed the issue publicly during a press conference late Thursday morning, hedging a bit on the question of whether he committed a crime with his prior testimony.
“He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime,” she told reporters. “Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States. Not the attorney general.”
But Pelosi’s public comments came after she, according to Politico, told Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., during a private caucus meeting Thursday: “We saw [Barr] commit a crime when he answered your question.”
She was referring to an April 9 hearing, where Crist had asked whether Barr knew what prompted reports that prosecutors on the special counsel team were frustrated with his initial summary. Barr said he did not.
But this week, The Washington Post first reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller contacted Barr, both in a letter and in a phone call, to express concerns after Barr released his four-page summary of Mueller’s findings in March. Mueller pushed Barr to release the executive summaries written by the special counsel’s office.
However, according to both the Post and the Justice Department, Mueller made clear that he did not feel that Barr’s summary was inaccurate. Instead, Mueller told Barr that media coverage of the letter had “misinterpreted” the results of the probe concerning obstruction of justice.
On Thursday, Pelosi was asked if Barr should go to jail for the alleged crime.
“There is a process involved here and as I said, I’ll say it again, the committee will have to come to how we will proceed,” Pelosi said.
Minutes later, the Justice Department blasted Pelosi for her assertions.
“Speaker Pelosi’s baseless attack on the Attorney General is reckless, irresponsible and false,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told Fox News.
Pelosi’s comments came as Barr boycotted a scheduled House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday. Barr objected after Democrats decided that their committee staff, rather than only members of Congress, would question Barr on his handling of the Mueller report. Justice Department officials said members should conduct the questioning, and said it was unclear why Democrats did not propose having staffers simply provide questions to the members during the hearing.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., slammed Barr and said he’s “failed” to do his job.
“He has failed to check the president’s worst instincts. He has not only misrepresented the findings of the special counsel, he has failed to protect the special counsel’s investigation from unfair political attacks,” Nadler said. “He has, himself, unfairly attacked the special counsel investigation. He has failed the men and women of the Department of Justice by placing the needs of the president over the fair administration of justice. He has even failed to show up here today.”
Nadler lashed out at both Barr and President Trump, who has vowed to fight all subpoenas amid an escalating confrontation with Congress over an array of investigations. Barr himself has not been subpoenaed, and it’s unclear whether Democrats might take that step, but his DOJ has refused to comply with a subpoena for the full Mueller report.
Nadler also said Thursday that the committee will “have no choice but to move quickly to hold the attorney general in contempt if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith” on the release of the report and other documents congressional Democrats have requested and subpoenaed.
Fox News' Jake Gibson contributed to this report.