At an event outside the West Front of the Capitol honouring slain law enforcement officers, Barr approached House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who last week joked about locking up members of the Trump administration in “a jail down in the basement of the Capitol.”
According to a person who witnessed the exchange, Mr Barr shook Ms Pelosi’s hand and said loudly, “Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?”
Ms Pelosi smiled and responded that the House sergeant at arms was present should it be necessary to arrest anyone, the person said, adding that Mr Barr “chuckled and walked away.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The exchange comes amid escalating tensions between the Trump administration and Democratic lawmakers over investigations on issues including Russian election interference, the president’s financial records and his financial separation policy. Democrats have accused the Trump administration of stonewalling their requests.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for not providing the full, un-redacted report from special counsel Robert Muller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday that the House would likely vote on that citation next month. If the chamber votes in favour, then lawmakers will have to decide whether to try to compel Barr with fines, the courts or the prospect of jail time.
At a Washington Post Live event last week, Ms Pelosi joked about locking up administration officials for not complying with subpoenas – even though no jail or detention area has existed on the Capitol grounds since 1877.
“Let me just say that we do have a jail down in the basement of the Capitol,” Ms Pelosi said to laughter. “But if we were arresting all of the people in the administration, we would have an overcrowded jail situation, and I’m not for that.”
The Washington Post