House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler on Monday evening said he’s preparing to subpoena Attorney General William P. Barr to compel him to testify about the recent firing of former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
“We have begun the process to issue that subpoena,” Mr. Nadler said on MSNBC. “We are doing that.”
Mr. Nadler had said his committee would open an investigation into the firing of Mr. Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Democrats are alleging that the administration is trying to hamper investigations into President Trump or his associates that might have been ongoing or in the works.
Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the committee, blasted the move in a letter to Mr. Nadler on Monday evening that indicated the subpoena would compel Mr. Barr to testify at a July 2 hearing.
Mr. Jordan said Mr. Barr had previously agreed to testify voluntarily at a hearing in March before the meeting was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Attorney General Barr remains willing to testify voluntarily once the pandemic concludes,” he wrote. “Accordingly, there is no legitimate basis for you to compel his testimony at this time.”
The committee is holding a hearing titled “Oversight of the Department of Justice: Political Interference and Threats to Prosecutorial Independence” on Wednesday.
Mr. Barr on Friday had announced Mr. Berman would step down, but Mr. Berman initially refused to do so.
On Saturday, Mr. Berman said he was leaving after Mr. Trump fired him.
On Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Mr. Berman was ousted because Jay Clayton, Mr. Trump’s pick to replace him, wanted to go back to New York City and the administration wanted to keep Mr. Clayton in the government.
She said Mr. Barr was taking the lead on the process but that the president was involved in a “sign-off” capacity.
Mr. Clayton is the current chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and prospects for his winning Senate confirmation have already run into roadblocks.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said he plans to respect the “blue slip” process for the nomination, where home-state senators get informal veto power over nominees.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he would not return a blue slip for Mr. Clayton, and both he and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, have called on Mr. Clayton to pull his name from consideration.