Attorney General William Barr will not testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, a Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday evening.
Barr testified for hours before a Senate committee Wednesday about his no-obstruction decision and his oversight of the end of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But hours later, the Justice Department said Barr would not appear before the House panel to answer questions about his handling of the release of Mueller’s report. In the days before his planned testimony, Barr had balked at who would be questioning him Thursday during the Judiciary Committee hearing.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York had planned to give the 41 committee members five minutes each to ask Barr questions and then another 30 minutes for both Democratic and Republican lawyers for the committee to make more inquiries of Barr.
Barr agreed to be questioned by the House lawmakers, but rejected further questioning by the lawyers.
Nadler said Barr has no choice.
“We’ve been very clear. Barr has to come. He has to testify. It’s none of the business of a witness to try to dictate to a congressional committee what the procedures for questioning him are,” Nadler said Monday.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement Wednesday that Nadler’s plan to have committee staff question Barr was “inappropriate,” adding that the attorney general remained “happy to engage directly with members on their questions” about the Mueller report.
Nadler said the committee would take “whatever action we have to take” if Barr skipped the hearing.
“He is terrified at having to face a skilled attorney,” Nadler said Wednesday, according to the French news agency AFP. He said Barr had also failed to provide to the committee a copy of the unredacted report.
Mueller cited 11 instances of possible obstruction of the investigation by President Donald Trump, saying that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
With Mueller not reaching a decision on the obstruction question, Barr said he concluded no criminal charges against Trump were warranted.
Democrats said they wanted to question Barr about how he reached his no-obstruction decision.