Partisan tensions flare at House hearing on Barr

JERRY NADLER: "Donald Ayer served as Deputy Attorney General..."

DOUG COLLINS: "Here we go again! I appealed the ruling of the chair on a point of order. You cannot overlook that."

DAVID CICILLINE: "Mr. Collins, you can't interrupt these proceedings and the American people deserve to know the truth."

The House Judiciary Committee held a contentious hearing Wednesday over allegations U.S. Attorney General William Barr improperly meddled in investigations for political gain.

DOUG COLLINS: "You cannot simply go over a point of order..."

The divided panel, led by Democratic Chairman Jerry Nadler, heard from witnesses who say the top law enforcement official in the country acted to benefit President Donald Trump.

DONALD AYER: "I am here because I believe that William Barr poses the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law and to public trust in it. That is because he does not believe in its core principle: that no person is above the law."

As he delivered his opening statement, former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer was interrupted by several Republican members of the panel, including Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas who complained Ayer's exceeded his allotted time and incessantly knocked on his desk to drown out his testimony.

HANK JOHNSON: "Mr. Chairman, I would ask that the sergeant-at-arms be called upon to stop the disruption of this meeting. I can't hear this witness. This is a very important witness."

LOUIE GOHMERT: "Yeah, well, he's way beyond this time. And if there are no rules about when people can talk, there's no rules about when you can make noise."

Wednesday's tense hearing also featured testimony from current Justice Department employee, Aaron Zelinksy, a federal prosecutor who testified that his office was pressured from the "highest levels" of the DOJ to scale back its sentencing recommendation for Trump's longtime friend, Roger Stone.

AARON ZELINSKY: "What I saw was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from every other defendant. He received breaks that are, in my experience, unheard of."

Republicans on the panel, including ranking member Jim Jordan, criticized Zelinsky, arguing he couldn't know if reducing the Stone sentencing was politically motivated because he never spoke directly to Barr.

JIM JORDAN: "So you didn't talk to any of the people who, ultimately, make these decisions, did you, Mr. Zelinsky?"

AARON ZELINSKY: "I requested to speak with the U.S. attorney, but..."

JIM JORDAN: "I didn't ask you if you requested that. I said, did you talk to him? You didn't talk to the attorney general. Didn't talk to the DAG. Didn't talk to the U.S. attorney."

Wednesday's hearing came at a time when Barr has come under growing scrutiny after he intervened in two prosecutions involving Trump allies, fired federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman whose office has investigated people close to Trump, and oversaw the use of force by federal law enforcement officers against peaceful protesters in Washington's Lafayette Square.

DONALD AYER: "We have a real problem here."

And with less than five months before the election, Ayer said he feared Barr's alleged misbehavior would only get worse as November draws closer.

DONALD AYER: "The drumbeat of his misbehavior is accelerating as we get closer to the election. I don't know what's next. But I'm scared to think about what it might be."

A Justice Department spokeswoman said on Wednesday that Barr himself will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on July 28th.