Welch Calls for Barr's Resignation as Attorney General | Off Message

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Welch Calls for Barr's Resignation as Attorney General


Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) - FILE
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  • Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) on Thursday called for Attorney General William Barr to resign.

"Looks like President Trump found his Roy Cohn," Welch wrote on Twitter, referring to the late lawyer and fixer famous for his loyalty to senator Joseph McCarthy and Donald Trump. "AG Barr should resign."

In an interview later Thursday with Seven Days, Welch cited the role Barr played in "undercutting" Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice by Trump.

"He really became a defender of the president, rather than a lawyer defending the rule of law for all Americans," Welch said.

Welch joins many other Democratic lawmakers in calling for Barr's resignation, including several presidential candidates, but he is the first member of Vermont's congressional delegation to do so. On Wednesday, both Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stopped short of such a demand.

"I’m disappointed by Mr. Barr, who’s been acting more like the President’s defense attorney than our Attorney General," Leahy said in a written statement after grilling Barr in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. "I want to hear from Robert Mueller before deciding on whether I think Mr. Barr should resign."

Sanders, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that Barr's "handling of the Mueller report has been a disaster," noting that the senator had opposed the AG's confirmation.

"I look forward to Special Counsel Mueller's testimony and believe Congress must continue to investigate whether the president obstructed justice," Sanders wrote.

Welch's call came as the House considered holding Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena for Mueller's full, unredacted report. Barr was scheduled to testify Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee but backed out at the last minute, citing concerns about the format of the hearing. Also on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reportedly accused Barr of lying to Congress about whether Mueller had raised concerns about the AG's characterization of his report.

In the interview, Welch declined to say whether he agreed with Pelosi and said his call for Barr's resignation was not prompted by the AG's testimony Wednesday in the Senate. Rather, Welch said it was driven by Barr's decision in March to issue a "sanitized" and "misleading" version of the Mueller report and to hold a "prebuttal" press conference in April ahead of the report's release.

"That was the role of a partisan press secretary," Welch said. "I mean, that's the kind of stuff you'd expect from [Trump spokesperson] Sarah Sanders, but not from the attorney general of the United States."

Welch blamed Trump for Barr's no-show in the House, arguing that the president is "basically saying Congress has no constitutional right to do oversight of any kind, to issue subpoenas for any reason." That, he added, was "alarming."

Asked whether he thought Trump had obstructed justice, Welch said, "Yeah, he took steps that were obstructing [the Mueller] investigation." But the Vermont Democrat, who has declined to call on the House to initiate impeachment proceedings, said his views on the matter had not changed. He said he continued to believe that Congress should first investigate the evidence uncovered by Mueller.

"One step at a time," he said.

As for whether he believed that, like Barr, Trump should resign, Welch said, "One at a time."

Disclosure: Paul Heintz worked as Peter Welch’s communications director from November 2008 to March 2011.