WASHINGTON (CN) — Condemning the politicization of the Justice Department, Democrats unveiled plans Tuesday to slash Attorney General Barr’s budget by $50 million.
The funding cut threat is unlikely to clear the Republican Senate, but represents a rare brandishing of appropriations power over the agency by the House Judiciary Committee.
Chairman Jerry Nadler announced the plan this afternoon, saying the committee will call Justice Department whistleblowers to testify rather than succumb to drawn-out legal wrangling of subpoena enforcement.
“I am not going to spend months litigating a subpoena with an attorney general who has already spent years resisting the courts and legitimate congressional oversight — but neither will we stand by and allow Mr. Barr to continue to corrupt the Department,” he said.
The New York Democrat said Barr has taken every opportunity to avoid oversight, now failing on two occasions to appear to testify to the committee on how his office is responding to Covid-19 and alleged political interference in criminal prosecutions of close associates of President Donald Trump.
Citing the ongoing response to Covid-19, the Justice Department explained Monday that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had ordered cabinet-level officials like Barr not to participate in congressional hearings.
That same day, however, Barr found time to walk from the White House to a nearby church for a photo-op with Trump, just minutes after police reportedly used teargas to clear peaceful protesters from the area. The attorney general had originally agreed to appear before the committee on March 31 but postponed as coronavirus broke out.
“He told the committee that he could not find the time to testify because of that epidemic — but took the time to tour the peaceful protests at Lafayette Park just minutes before riot police fired tear gas into the crowd,” Nadler said in a statement.
With a nod to Barr encroaching on career prosecutors to propose a more lenient sentence for Roger Stone, and to abandon the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Nadler accused the attorney general of corrupting the integrity of the criminal justice system and trying to erase findings by former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Nadler said the whistleblowers he has gathered to testify against Barr will be joined by other former Justice Department officials in a public hearing not yet scheduled.
“These individuals are prepared to describe specific incidents of misconduct, as well as the unprecedented politicization of the Department of Justice under President Trump and Attorney General Barr,” Nadler said.
Joining an ever-growing list of parties wanting to weigh in on the case, House Judiciary Democrats plan to file an amicus brief on the Justice Department filing a motion to dismiss the Flynn prosecution, calling the move: “one of many cases in which Attorney General Barr has improperly interfered for the benefit of President Trump and his political allies.”
House Republicans filed their own brief Monday, as did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, arguing the power to prosecute lies solely in the executive branch and accusing the judge on the case of abandoning neutrality.
The Justice Department and a spokesperson for House Judiciary Republicans did not respond to requests for comment on the actions Democrats plan to take against Barr.
But the committee’s GOP wing accused Nadler and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a tweet of wanting to defund efforts by the Trump administration to “restore law and order to our neighborhoods,” as nationwide demonstrations erupt over the death of George Floyd.