United States House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jarrold Nadler said Attorney General William Barr's "moment of accountability will come soon enough" after refusing to comply with demands related to a report on a probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Nadler, a Democrat, said during an abbreviated hearing Thursday that Barr has failed to "stand up to the president" and address "this clear and present danger to our constitutional order."
The committee's ranking Republican, Doug Collins, argued the "Democrats didn't want him here today" and added "The stunt and the circus continues over here."
Democratic committee members mocked Barr's absence, with Steve Cohen bringing buckets of chicken to the hearing and David Cicilline humorously peeking under his desk to make sure Barr was not present.
Trump applauds Barr, criticizes Democrats
President Donald Trump has vowed to right congressional oversight. The Justice Department said late Wednesday that committee chairman Nadler's plan to have committee staff question Barr was "inappropriate," adding that the attorney general remained "happy to engage directly with members on their questions" about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.
Barr testified for hours before a Senate committee Wednesday about his no-obstruction decision and his oversight of the end of Mueller's report.
Nadler had planned to have his committee tackle the same subjects, giving the 41 members five minutes each to ask Barr questions and then another 30 minutes for both Democratic and Republican lawyers for the committee to make more inquiries of Barr.
Barr agreed to be questioned by the House lawmakers, but rejected further questioning by the lawyers.
Nadler said the committee will take "whatever action we have to take" if Barr skips the hearing.
"He is terrified at having to face a skilled attorney," Nadler told reporters Wednesday. He said Barr had also failed to provide to the committee a copy of the unredacted report as requested by his committee in a subpoena, and that legal actions to get the report would be a higher priority than moves to compel Barr to testify.
Obstruction of justice
Mueller cited 11 instances of possible obstruction of the investigation by Trump, saying that "while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
With Mueller not reaching a decision on the obstruction question, Barr said he concluded no criminal charges against Trump were warranted.
Democrats said they want to question Barr how he reached his no-obstruction decision.