Apr 30, 2019

House Democrats prepare to escalate standoff with Bill Barr

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and Attorney General Bill Barr. Photos: Getty Images

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has scheduled a committee vote on Wednesday to allow staff lawyers to question Attorney General Bill Barr during his hearing this week.

Why it matters: Barr has threatened to cancel his appearance before the panel on Thursday over the proposed format, with the Justice Department arguing that Barr had agreed to appear before Congress — and therefore "members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning." Nadler, who has pledged to subpoena Barr if he doesn't show up, told reporters Monday: "It’s not the business of a witness to try to dictate to a congressional committee what our procedures for questioning him are."

The big picture: Thursday's hearing will be the first opportunity for Democrats to question Barr since the release of the redacted Mueller report, after many accused the attorney general of spinning the special counsel's findings on behalf of President Trump.

  • It's likely to be the first of many Democrat-led interrogations of Trump administration officials in the post-Mueller world, though the White House has made clear that it will not voluntarily comply with any of the House's investigations or subpoenas.
  • As the top law enforcement official in the country, however, it remains to be seen whether Barr will stonewall Congress to the same level as more openly partisan Trump officials. Public pressure for Barr to explain why he chose to exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice — a move that seemingly downplayed the breadth of evidence of obstruction presented in the Mueller report — could force his hand.

What to watch: The hearing on Thursday will be preceded by Barr's appearance before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, expected to be a less hostile environment chaired by Trump ally Lindsey Graham.

  • Graham, who played a significant role in President Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings, has blasted Democrats as "political hacks" and said he doesn't care about the evidence of obstruction that Mueller laid out: "From my point of view, I've heard all I need to really know. Now I want to look and find out how all this happened."
  • 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker will be among the Judiciary Democrats to question Barr.

Go deeper: How Trump can stall House Democrats' investigations and subpoenas

Go deeper

Trump announces 30-day extension of coronavirus guidelines

President Trump announced on Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30 in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 130,000 Americans and killed nearly 2,500.

Why it matters: Top advisers to the president have been seeking to steer him away from Easter as an arbitrary deadline for the U.S. to open parts of its economy, amid warnings from health officials that loosening restrictions could cause the number of coronavirus cases to skyrocket.

Go deeperArrow34 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 716,101 — Total deaths: 33,854 — Total recoveries: 148,900.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 136,880 — Total deaths: 2,409 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.