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Blumenthal: DOJ denying Dems meetings with AG nominee Barr, citing shutdown

The Hill logo The Hill 1/10/2019 Emily Birnbaum
Richard Blumenthal wearing a suit and tie: Blumenthal: DOJ denying Dems meetings with AG nominee Barr, citing shutdown © Stefani Reynolds Blumenthal: DOJ denying Dems meetings with AG nominee Barr, citing shutdown Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is claiming that the Justice Department (DOJ) is denying Senate Democrats meetings with William Barr, President Trump's nominee for attorney general.

Blumenthal in a statement on Wednesday called Barr's "refusal" to meet with Democrats "unprecedented and unacceptable."

"William Barr's refusal to meet with Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee is entirely unprecedented and unacceptable," Blumenthal said in a statement sent to The Hill. "The Department of Justice's attempt to excuse this gross break in the norms by citing a 'truncated schedule' is galling when they are the ones who have rushed it."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), top Democrat on the panel, is scheduled to speak with Barr on Thursday, her spokeswoman told The Washington Post.

The Hill has reached out to other Senate Judiciary Democrats and the DOJ for comment.

DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told the Post that Barr is meeting with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle "despite the holidays, reduced DOJ staff and resources due to the partial government shutdown, and the compressed timeline to prepare for the upcoming hearing."

The DOJ is one of the agencies affected by the partial government shutdown, which began on Dec. 22. Emails and phone calls to the DOJ from The Hill received responses that the department is currently unable to reply to inquiries due to the shutdown.

"My Republican colleagues should share my outrage at this appalling violation of the Senate's independent authority," Blumenthal said in the statement.

The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold hearings next week for Barr.

Democrats have heavily criticized the nominee over a memo he wrote last year criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Barr in the memo to the White House said Mueller's probe into possible obstruction of justice by Trump was based on a "fatally misconceived" theory.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for Trump to withdraw Barr's nomination over the memo, as Democrats claim it is disqualifying because it displays bias against Mueller.

Barr met with Republican senators on Wednesday. The Judiciary Committee's new chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) after he left the meeting said Barr has a "very high opinion of Mr. Mueller and he is committed to letting Mr. Mueller finish his job."

"He's got some concerns about turning the firing of a political appointee into an obstruction-of-justice case, and I share those concerns," Graham told reporters. "But that's his opinion as a private citizen. As an attorney general, his job is to receive Mr. Mueller's report."


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