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Democratic congressional members from N.H., Vt. criticize Barr

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Lebanon, N.H., May 3, 2019 | By Tim Camerato

LEBANON — Several Twin State Democrats in Washington this week said they believe Attorney General William Barr should be held in contempt of Congress or resign for blocking Congressional efforts to review the unredacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., said on Friday that Barr likely will be held in contempt and backed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement that Barr had lied about communications with Mueller last month.

“I think he’s acted inappropriately as a defense counsel for the president,” Kuster said of Barr, who testified on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee but refused to appear before its counterpart in the House because of plans to allow committee lawyers to question him.

“I believe that will happen, and I would support that,” Kuster said of the House Judiciary Committee’s threat to hold Barr in contempt if he fails to comply with a subpoena.

Kuster said the Mueller report, which was released with redactions last month, produced evidence that President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice by acting to derail Muller’s investigation. However, she said, it’s too early to endorse impeachment proceedings against the president.

“I’m not there yet at this point because I want to hear evidence, call the witnesses, have Congress play their oversight role and hear from Mr. Mueller about his extensive investigation,” she said after a stop on Friday afternoon at Headrest, the Lebanon nonprofit that offers substance abuse treatment.

Kuster’s visit to the Upper Valley was part of a health care listening tour, which started with talks at Headrest about the state’s opioid epidemic and continued later at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with conversations about prescription drug pricing.

Kuster isn’t alone in calling for Barr’s resignation. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., made similar comments in an interview with Seven Days, where he chastised the attorney general for releasing a “sanitized” and “misleading” version of the Mueller report and faulted him for holding a “prebuttal” press conference beforehand.

While members of the Twin State congressional delegation have taken Trump to task for behavior detailed in the report, they haven’t yet said he should be impeached for obstructing Mueller’s probe.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who questioned Barr during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings earlier this week, said lawmakers need to hear directly from Mueller.

“Barr’s efforts to minimize the President’s misconduct — both the Trump campaign’s eagerness to work with and benefit from Russia’s theft, and the President’s attempts to shut down the ensuing investigation — place at risk the foundational American principle that no one is above the law,” Leahy said via Twitter this week.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stopped short of calling for Trump’s impeachment, although he believes more investigation by Congress is required, including hearing again from Barr.

“When Congress asks the attorney general to testify or provide information, he’s got to do it. I support those who are prepared to hold him in contempt for stonewalling. The American people are entitled to this information and the House should be as tough as they can be,” Sanders said Friday on Twitter.

Meanwhile, both U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., called for Mueller to testify before Congress in statements on Friday.

“The report makes clear that the President certainly acted inappropriately in his efforts to mislead the public about the investigations into him and his campaign, and it’s critical that the Special Counsel testify before Congress so that the American public can get the full facts of what happened,” Hassan said.

However, Republican congressional candidate Steve Negron said Democrats are sensationalizing the special counsel’s findings after it failed to find the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

“This is, I think, an attempt by them to find something to pin on the president,” said Negron, a former state representative from Nashua who has announced his intention to again challenge Kuster in 2020. “New Hampshire citizens are tired of this. They were tired of the Kavanaugh (confirmation) hearings and it’s just been going on and on and on.”

Negron believes that Democrats ultimately won’t indict Trump, comparing such a move to when Republicans began impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1998. That was “an embarrassment to Republicans” that later hurt the party’s reputation, he said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.