Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of committing a crime by lying to Congress, blasting him in a closed-door meeting and later at a news conference.
“We saw [Barr] commit a crime when he answered your question,” Pelosi told Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) during a private caucus meeting Thursday morning, according to two sources present for the gathering.
“He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress,” Pelosi said soon after at a news conference. “And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.“
Pelosi’s comments were an apparent reference to Barr’s response to Crist last month during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, during which the attorney general said he was not aware of any concerns that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team might have expressed about his four-page summary of Mueller’s findings.
Barr’s response appeared to contradict the revelation earlier this week that Mueller himself wrote to the attorney general saying he was worried that Barr’s summary “threatens to undermine ... public confidence” in the Russia probe. Mueller also said Barr’s memo “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the investigation.
Crist later told POLITICO that he agreed Barr committed a crime.
“It’s called perjury,” he said.
Asked what the result should be, Crist said, “We ought to have somebody who is in a law enforcement space charge him.”
Crist said he was open to potential contempt or impeachment proceedings against Barr.
When a reporter asked Pelosi if Barr should go to jail, she said, “There's a process involved here, and as I said, I'll say it again, the committee will act upon how we will proceed.“
Pelosi also told her colleagues at the caucus meeting that she couldn’t sleep Wednesday night after watching Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which he challenged Mueller’s legal theories and framework and further endeared himself to Trump and his GOP allies.
Pelosi added that impeachment is “too good for” President Donald Trump, reiterating her opposition to launching impeachment proceedings even as a growing chorus of Democrats demands it.
The speaker’s remarks underscored Democrats’ deep frustrations with the White House’s refusal to comply with their oversight demands and subpoenas as part of their investigations targeting the president and his administration.
Barr refused to show up for a scheduled House Judiciary Committee testimony on Thursday amid a standoff with Democrats over the ground rules, and the Justice Department has said it would not comply with the panel’s subpoena for the full unredacted Mueller report and all of the underlying evidence and grand-jury information.
Some Democrats have called on Barr to resign, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) threatened on Thursday to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for not complying with the subpoena for the Mueller report. Those proceedings could begin as early as Monday.
“We must do all we can in the name of the American people to ensure that when the Trump administration ends, we have as robust a democracy to hand to our children as was handed to us,” Nadler said.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.