Pelosi: Barr committed a crime by lying to Congress

The speaker did not call for his resignation or impeachment, and deferred action to the Judiciary Committee

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addresses the media at the House Democrats' 2019 Issues Conference at the Lansdowne Resort and Spa in Leesburg, Va. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addresses the media at the House Democrats' 2019 Issues Conference at the Lansdowne Resort and Spa in Leesburg, Va. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:01pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Attorney General William Barr has committed a crime by lying to Congress, but she did not call for his resignation or impeachment.

The California Democrat, speaking with reporters at her weekly press conference, said it’s up to the Judiciary Committee to decide how to respond to Barr’s defiance of Congress and other administration efforts to stonewall congressional investigations.

“What is deadly serious about is that the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States of America. That’s a crime,” Pelosi said.

She did not specify what incident she was referring to but had previously been speaking about Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. She may also have been talking about how Barr told Congress last month that he did not know if special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had reservations about the attorney general’s initial four-page summary of Mueller’s report when Mueller had actually written him a letter expressing concerns about it.

The attorney general declined to appear at a Thursday hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, and he ignored its subpoena for the unredacted version of Mueller’s report. Panel Democrats have said they’re considering holding Barr in contempt of Congress, but appear to be pursuing that through a criminal statute that would only allow Congress to submit a prosecution referral to Barr’s Department of Justice.

Barr did testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Pelosi said she lost sleep last night watching that testimony over and over again.

“How sad it is for us to see the top law enforcement officer in our country misrepresenting, withholding the truth from the Congress of the United States,” she said.

Pelosi said it dawned on her that Barr’s actions — as well as other GOP actions like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bragging about being “the grim reaper” in killing legislation when it reaches his chamber — are not only about President Donald Trump. She said it’s about a right-wing ideology that caters to special interests.

“They’re handmaidens to the special interests in our country,” she said.

Asked about whether she feels more urgency to decide whether to impeach the president given the administration’s stonewalling of congressional investigations, Pelosi said “no.” But she underscored how serious the administration’s refusal to cooperate is.

“The statements being made by the president of the United States – he’s given a blanket statement that he’s not going to honor any subpoenas – is obstruction of justice,” she said.

The speaker, who has long said any effort to impeach the president must be bipartisan, said Democrats “are in a very, very challenging place because we have a Republican Party in the Congress who is complicit” and won’t do anything to buck the president.

“And so that’s why I say sometimes impeachment is the easy way out for some of these people because they know it will end at the Senate’s edge,” Pelosi said.

In policy news, Pelosi said she has spoken to Trump since their Tuesday meeting where they agreed to pursue a $2 trillion infrastructure package. Pelosi said Trump told her that he is putting together “pay-fors” that would be acceptable to him.

The infrastructure package should be funded 80 percent by the federal government and 20 percent by localities, Pelosi said.