House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday accused U.S. Attorney General William Barr of going “rogue” in the Justice Department’s handling of a whistleblower complaint that President Donald Trump solicited a political favor from Ukraine’s president that could help him get re-elected.
The Democrat leader, who launched an impeachment inquiry on Tuesday against the Republican Trump, has accused the administration of trying to cover up the whistleblower complaint.
On Friday, she said Barr’s Justice Department had told the top U.S. intelligence official, Joseph Maguire, to inform the White House about the whistleblower report instead of first going to Congress, as the law requires.
“He’s gone rogue,” Pelosi said of Barr in an interview with MSNBC.
“I think where they’re going is a cover-up of the cover-up. And that’s really very sad for them. And to have a Justice Department go so rogue, well, they have been for a while,” she said.
Democrats say Barr should recuse himself from matters related to the whistleblower complaint prompted by a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
According to a summary of the call released by the White House, Trump asked Zelenskiy to work with Barr and his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company when Biden was in office.
Biden is a leading candidate in the Democratic race to challenge Trump in the November 2020 presidential election.
Trump denies he pressured Zelenskiy to do anything improper and accuses Democrats of launching politically motivated investigation.
The Justice Department said this week that Trump never asked Barr to contact Ukraine and that Barr has not communicated with Ukraine about a possible investigation or any other subject. The department said Barr will not recuse himself from Ukraine-related investigations.
The complaint, which was made public on Thursday, described how White House officials removed an electronic record of Trump’s call with Zelenskiy from the computer server where such records are normally kept to one reserved for highly classified intelligence matters.
Democrats say the Ukraine reports raised serious concerns that Trump’s actions have jeopardized national security and the integrity of U.S. elections.
The impeachment inquiry is casting a new pall over Trump’s presidency just months after he emerged from the cloud cast by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether he colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.
Trump has reacted furiously, accusing Democrats of launching another “witch hunt.”
After saying on Thursday that whoever fed the whistleblower information were as good as spies, he said on Friday that the whistleblower may have been a lone wolf “partisan operative.”
Trump said on Twitter that “there may not have even been somebody else, a leaker or spy, feeding it to him or her?”
Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are pushing for testimony from as many as a dozen current and former White House aides who might be able to corroborate the account of the unidentified whistleblower.
House Intelligence Committee Democrats are also pushing to summon Barr and Giuliani, who has acted as a front-line defender and investigator for Trump in connection with the Ukraine controversy, sources said.
Three House committees said they would issue subpoenas to the White House and State Department as soon as Friday if the Trump administration missed a Thursday deadline to send a wide range of documents related to its dealings with Ukraine.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, Patricia Zengerle, Mark Hosenball, Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice; Writing by Doina Chiacu, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alistair Bell)