House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Attorney General William P. Barr committed a crime by lying to Congress — but stopped short of saying what consequences there should be.
“The attorney general of the United States was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime,” Mrs. Pelosi, the top Democrat in Washington, told reporters.
She also accused Republicans of betraying Congress and circling the wagons around Mr. Barr and President Trump, rather than joining Democrats in their myriad probes of the president, his administration, his family and his businesses.
The Justice Department called Mrs. Pelosi’s claim out of bounds.
“Speaker Pelosi’s baseless attack on the attorney general is reckless, irresponsible and false,” said Kerri Kupec, a spokesperson for Mr. Barr.
Mrs. Pelosi’s comments came hours after Mr. Barr was a no-show for a House hearing where he’d been asked to testify over his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 election.
SEE ALSO: William Barr a no-show as Democrats vow retribution
Mr. Barr and the Judiciary Committee are sparring over how he will be interrogated.
A day earlier, Mr. Barr spent hours testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he found himself under fire for his initial summary of the special counsel’s conclusions, and for his descriptions of his interactions with Mr. Mueller.
Mr. Barr had previously testified to Congress that he and Mr. Mueller didn’t disagree about his public statements about the report — but on Wednesday the Justice Department released a letter from Mr. Mueller showing the special counsel was miffed, suggesting Mr. Barr had left confusion about the investigation’s work.
A number of members of Democrats say that letter is so clear that it makes Mr. Barr a liar.
Some have called for Mr. Barr’s ouster.
But Republicans said Democrats’ outrage was political theater.
“I do not believe Attorney General Barr lied. I believe he has been very transparent in all of this,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at a press conference. “I think if people are looking at who has lied in the process, simply look at Chairman Nadler.”
Rep. Mark Green, Tennessee Republican, pointed out that on Wednesday, House Democrats refused to ask the Justice Department to investigate former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for lying to Congress.
Cohen testified earlier this year that he had “never” asked Mr. Trump for a pardon. His lawyer later admitted that Cohen did. The lawyer said when Cohen used the word “never” he didn’t actually mean “never,” but rather meant not after a particular point in time.
The House chairman who oversaw the Cohen hearing gave him a pass, saying the later admission was good enough.
Mr. Green, though, forced a vote on referring the matter to the Justice Department — and Democrats blocked his effort.
“They’ve now suggested you can lie to Congress as long as testimony tries to hurt Trump,” he said. “Democrats have just endorsed a two-tiered system of justice!”
Mrs. Pelosi, in her remarks to reporters Thursday, said it will be up to her committees to impose consequences on Mr. Barr and other members of the administration who are rebuffing congressional requests.
But she took a rhetorical hard line.
“Nobody is above the law — not the president of the United States and not the attorney general,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
She did, however, reiterate her opposition to attempting to impeach Mr. Trump, saying it would be futile with the GOP-led Senate unlikely to muster the votes to convict the president and remove him.
“Sometimes, I say impeachment is the easy way out for some of these people because they know it will end at the Senate’s edge,” she said.
Yet Mrs. Pelosi clearly had impeachment on her mind. While talking of the Trump administration’s clashes with Democrats, she noted that President Richard M. Nixon was on the path to impeachment, in part, for refusing to cooperate with subpoenas. Nixon resigned office before the full House had a chance to vote on articles of impeachment concerning obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress.