Why should Radical Left Democrats in Congress have a right to retry and examine the $35,000,000 (two years in the making) No Collusion Mueller Report, when the crime committed was by Crooked Hillary, the DNC and Dirty Cops? Attorney General Barr will make the decision!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2019
House Democrats are crying foul over a plan by the Intelligence Committee's top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, to meet privately with Attorney General William Barr to push the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against officials involved in the investigation of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia.
Nunes’ accusations of misconduct are aimed at a slew of former FBI and Justice Department officials, who he alleges committed crimes in their pursuit of allegations that President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign conspired with Russians to influence the election.
Nunes has in recent days foreshadowed plans to send eight "criminal referrals" — informal requests for the Justice Department to investigate — directly to Barr. He said on Sean Hannity's Fox News show Thursday night that he intends to meet with Barr "when appropriate" to discuss the referrals, and plans to bring fellow GOP intelligence committee member John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney, to the meeting. Nunes said he wouldn't name the targeted officials publicly but would share his recommendations with Barr.
Barr told lawmakers earlier this week that he was anticipating Nunes' information.
"I haven’t seen the referrals yet from Congressman Nunes," Barr said during testimony to the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, "but obviously if there’s a predicate for an investigation it’ll be conducted.”
Nunes' move is an escalation by Trump's allies in Congress to pivot from Mueller's still-unreleased findings to the conduct of the FBI and Justice Department investigators who initiated the Russia probe. Before seeing its contents, Nunes labeled Mueller's report a "partisan document" and said "we can just burn it up," even as most of Trump's supporters were celebrating the news — as described publicly by Barr — that Mueller "did not establish" a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russian government.
The Justice Department declined multiple inquiries about whether Barr intends to meet with Nunes and Ratcliffe. Nunes and Ratcliffe also declined requests for comment. Democrats says such a meeting would be a significant break from protocol unless they are also included.
“We expect to learn more if and when the Department of Justice receives the referrals, assuming the Department follows appropriate protocol and Barr holds any such meeting only with representatives of the majority and minority present," said a Democratic aide to the House intelligence committee.
A decision by Barr to meet alone with Nunes and Ratcliffe would further strain Barr's relationship with Capitol Hill Democrats, who have ripped the new attorney general in recent weeks for what they say is his efforts to shield Trump from potentially damaging findings in Mueller's report, which Barr has been reviewing for nearly a month.
Their frustration was inflamed anew this week when Barr told the Senate Appropriations Committee that he believed federal authorities spied on Trump's campaign in 2016, a disputed premise that supported Trump's inflammatory rhetoric about the Russia probe.
The intelligence committee aide emphasized that Nunes had yet to share any details of his referrals with Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) or other members of the Democratic majority.
"[B]ut it is clear they believe they now have an ally in the attorney general to perpetuate their conspiracy theories of ‘spying’ and their determination to investigate the investigators, no matter how misguided and damaging their efforts are to our national institutions, or the dedicated public servants who work to keep us safe," the aide said.
A senior House Democratic aide said Barr "must refuse the meeting and start down a path of redeeming his credibility," especially as he prepares to issue a redacted version of Mueller's final report.