Nadler blasts no-show Barr before empty seat at House Judiciary hearing

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer

In a remarkable scene inside the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., blasted Attorney General William Barr for failing to appear before the committee on Thursday.

For those viewing on cable television, Barr’s empty seat and placard were seen on a split-screen as Nadler spoke.

“The attorney general of the United States is sworn to uphold the Constitution as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer,” Nadler said. “Sadly the attorney general has failed in that responsibility. 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. He has himself unfairly attacked the special counsel’s 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,” Nadler continued. “He has even failed to show up today.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., looks on as Attorney General William Barr fails to attend a hearing before the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. (Photos: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Barr defended his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in a contentious appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That night, the Justice Department informed the House Judiciary Committee that Barr would not testify before the panel on Thursday amid disagreements over the hearing’s format.

Nadler, who is seeking an unredacted version of the Mueller report, said he would hold the attorney general in contempt if he doesn’t produce it within the next couple days.

“The attorney general must make a choice,” Nadler said. “Every one of us must make the same choice. That choice is now an obligation of our office. The choice is simple: We can stand up to this president in defense of the country and the Constitution and the liberty we love, or we can let the moment pass us by.”

He added: “I do not know what Attorney General Barr will choose. I do not know what my Republican colleagues will choose. But I am certain that there is no way forward for this country that does not include a reckoning with this clear and present danger to our constitutional order. History will judge us for how we face this challenge. We will all be held accountable in one way or the other.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler speaks as Attorney General William Barr fails to attend a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the ranking Republican on the committee, accused Nadler of creating a political “circus.”

“They want it to look like an impeachment hearing,” Collins said. “The reason Bill Barr isn’t here today is because the Democrats decided they didn’t want him here today.”

Nadler quickly concluded the hearing, defying objections from Collins and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., whose mic appeared to be cut off.

Adding to the surreal nature of the hearing, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., arrived with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, apparently to mock Barr as being a “chicken” in failing to appear.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., eats chicken during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)


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