Rep. Steve Cohen launches push for Barr impeachment probe

Rep. Steve Cohen is urging Democrats to consider impeaching Attorney General William Barr, according to a new letter obtained by POLITICO Friday.

Cohen (D-Tenn.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, plans to file a resolution calling for an investigation into whether Barr has committed impeachable conduct and circulated a letter asking other Democrats to support it.

In his letter, Cohen cited a number of allegedly improper actions, including that Barr “has continually tried to delegitimize the investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 election.”

Cohen also complained about Barr’s involvement in the Justice Department’s decision to change the sentencing recommendations for Roger Stone, a longtime associate of President Donald Trump who was convicted of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering. Federal prosecutors had originally sought a prison sentence of seven to nine years for Stone, but Barr later softened those recommendations. A lead prosecutor in the case ended up leaving DOJ after the episode.

And Cohen referenced Barr’s role in the controversial decision to remove protestors from Lafayette Square during a June 1 rally over police brutality. Trump later crossed the square for a photo op at St. John’s Church after the protesters had been cleared.

“I intend to introduce a resolution laying out many instances of Attorney General Barr’s misconduct and urging the Judiciary Committee to continue its investigations into these instances, evaluate the evidence, and to determine if this constitutes impeachable conduct,” Cohen wrote.

Cohen urged Democrats who want to support his resolution to sign on by close of business Friday. His office did not immediately return a request for comment on this story.

Cohen is among at least three Democrats who have publicly endorsed impeaching Barr, including Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey. Cohen said this week: “We should pursue impeachment of Bill Barr because he is reigning terror on the rule of law.”

But his effort is unlikely to be well received by many in the caucus and flies in the face of House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who have dismissed the idea of trying to impeach Barr so close to the election.

Pelosi called Barr “a mess” Thursday when asked about talk of impeaching Barr, but she quickly shut the prospect down. The election would be Democrats’ “solution” to many problems, including Barr, she said.

“He is contemptible,” Pelosi said during a Washington Post live event. “There’s no question about that. But at this point, let’s solve our problems by going to the polls and voting on Election Day, 131 days from now.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) similarly dismissed the impeachment talk over the weekend, calling it a “waste of time.” But Nadler later caused confusion within the caucus after telling CNN Wednesday he “may very well” pursue impeachment.

Nadler’s reversal came after he was pressured by other Judiciary Democrats to do more to hold Barr accountable. A Judiciary staff call got heated this past Monday, with some Democratic staffers pushing for impeachment only to be rebuffed by Nadler’s aides.

Hours later that day, many Democrats on the committee were surprised by reports that Nadler planned to issue a subpoena for Barr’s testimony on July 2 if he didn’t willingly appear before the committee. Barr later agreed to testify before the panel on July 28.

Several Democratic aides are skeptical that the resolution will gain traction in the caucus, particularly at a time when the House is confronting dual crises of police brutality and a global pandemic on top of its already crowded election-year agenda.

Even Democrats who have been the biggest critics of Trump and his cabinet have been more measured in their response to Barr’s conduct in recent weeks, with little discussion of formally rebuking or impeaching him, though they had called for it during earlier points of Trump’s presidency.

House Democrats did vote to hold Barr in criminal contempt last year over the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the census. The Justice Department, as expected, did not seek to prosecute Barr.

No attorney general has ever been impeached, although the House Judiciary Committee held hearings in 1922 on then Attorney General Harry Daugherty’s failure to prosecute officials involved in the Teapot Dome scandal. The panel found there was not enough evidence to warrant Daugherty’s removal from office.

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