The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Thursday featuring an empty chair for Attorney General William Barr after he informed the panel he wouldn’t show up for the session on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.
The House Judiciary hearing lasted less than 30 minutes, but the panel says it will continue its investigation.
Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Barr’s “moment of accountability will come soon enough” if he doesn’t give the committee with the “respect it deserves.” He said as the session opened Thursday that Barr has “a choice” whether to stand up to President Donald Trump, who has pledged to fight congressional oversight.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., left a prop chicken at the empty witness’ chair. Later, Cohen told reporters, “Chicken Barr should have shown up today and answered questions.”
Republicans weren’t as amused. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said Nadler took away the committee’s right to hear from Barr.
“The reason Bill Barr is not here today is because Democrats decided they didn’t want him here,” Collins said, calling the move to allow staff lawyers question Barr a “circus political stunt.”
The Justice Department said Nadler, a Democrat from New York, was trying to place “unprecedented and unnecessary” conditions on the attorney general.
Democratic members of the committee had fun with the spectacle, with Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen bringing buckets of fried chicken and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline jokingly looking under the desk to make sure Barr wasn’t there.
For most of Wednesday, Barr underwent at times scathing questioning by Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House panel is considering holding Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to show.
The PBS NewsHour’s Gretchen Frazee and Erica R. Hendry contributed reporting.