(CN) – Senator Kamala Harris sent a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Friday, asking him to investigate whether Attorney General William Barr acted upon requests by President Donald Trump or White House officials to investigate any “perceived opponents” of the president.
The California senator and Democratic presidential candidate said that Barr’s congressional testimony on Wednesday as well as findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report led her to take action.
“Such inappropriate requests by the President have been well documented,” Harris wrote in the letter. “Special Counsel Mueller…documented a disturbing pattern of behavior on the part of the President—repeated attempts to target his perceived opponents.”
Barr faced strong questioning from Harris on Wednesday during his testimony. Harris asked the attorney general whether anyone from the White House “asked or suggested” he investigate anyone.
“I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest,'” Barr replied. “I mean, there have been discussions of, of matters out there that, uh — they have not asked me to open an investigation, but …”
Harris followed up with more questions to clarify, but Barr said he didn’t know if anyone hinted at possible investigations into opponents of the president.
In Friday’s letter to Horowitz, Harris cited Barr’s testimony as one of the reasons for the investigation.
“In response to my questions during the hearing, Attorney General Barr proved unable or unwilling to state whether he had been directed to open investigations at the request or suggestion of the President or other White House officials—an alarming response that strikes at the very heart of the rule of law and threatens to undermine the longstanding independence of the Justice Department,” Harris wrote.
Harris also cited three instances detailed in Mueller’s report when President Trump requested investigations of Hillary Clinton.
Barr has been under intense scrutiny by House Democrats this week following his refusal to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and the release of a letter sent to him by Mueller, which listed the special counsel’s concerns that Barr’s summary of the report did not accurately reflect what was in it. Barr previously testified that Mueller had no such concerns.
Reps. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., have asked state bars in Washington, D.C. and Virginia to start ethics investigations into whether Barr lied to Congress. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has threatened to hold the attorney general in contempt for not providing his committee with an unredacted copy of the Mueller report.