- Attorney General William Barr reportedly joked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about whether she brought handcuffs when the two met Wednesday at a memorial service.
- Pelosi reportedly didn’t miss a beat: She replied that “the House Sergeant at Arms was present at the ceremony should an arrest be necessary.”
- The exchange is a likely reference to House Democrats’ vote to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the unredacted Mueller report. It is a serious charge that could eventually be referred to a US attorney for criminal prosecution.
- Some Democratic lawmakers have since pushed for the House Sergeant at Arms to arrest the attorney general.
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Attorney General William Barr and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly traded jokes Wednesday about House Democrats’ recent vote to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.
Fox News reported that Barr approached Pelosi after the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service on Capitol Hill. The attorney general asked the House speaker if she brought handcuffs with her to the service, a source told the outlet.
Another bystander told the Washington Post that Pelosi, “not missing a beat, smiled and indicated to the Attorney General that the House Sergeant at Arms was present at the ceremony should an arrest be necessary,” as the newspaper wrote.
Barr reportedly laughed and walked away.
The quips were likely a reference to demands from some rank-and-file Democrats for Barr himself to be arrested as House Democrats wrangle with the Justice Department over the special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia probe.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt last week after he refused to turn over an unredacted copy of the Mueller report, its underlying evidence, and all grand-jury material.
Contempt of Congress is a serious charge that can later result in a criminal referral to a US attorney. Though rare, if sought all the way through, maximum penalties could include either a $US100,000 fine or one year in jail.
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, who sits on the judiciary committee, called for the House to move toward “inherent contempt,” which would result in the attorney general being arrested by the House Sergeant At Arms. Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Jamie Raskin have also suggested the same.
“We know how to arrest people around here,” Raskin told Politico. “And if we need to arrest someone, the [House] sergeant-at-arms will know how to do it. I’m not afraid of that.”
Early this month, Barr was set to appear before the House and Senate judiciary committees for back-to-back days of testimony about the Mueller report and his controversial decisions leading up to its release. Hours before he appeared before the Senate panel, it surfaced that Mueller wrote two letters expressing concerns to Barr about the way he had portrayed Mueller’s findings.
After testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the letters and his oversight of the Russia probe, the Justice Department announced Barr would not appear before the House Judiciary Committee the next day.
The committee launched formal proceedings to hold him in contempt after he missed last Monday’s deadline to turn over the unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department responded by threatening to advise President Donald Trump to invoke executive privilege over Mueller’s report in light of Democrats’ actions.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler responded by describing the Justice Department’s threat as “without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis.”
Trump invoked executive privilege as soon as the judiciary committee began voting to hold Barr in contempt. Congressional Democrats have said they will fight the claim in court.
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