“This is part of this massive resistance by the Trump administration,” Norman J. Ornstein, an expert on Congress at the American Enterprise Institute and a fierce critic of the president, said Sunday. “It’s basically a middle finger to Congress and its powers, and we’re going to see what Congress does about it.”
At issue in the case of Mr. Barr is Democrats’ insistence that in addition to the usual five-minute rounds of questioning from lawmakers, the attorney general take some questions from staff lawyers during a 30-minute round, which would allow for more follow-up from interviewers who are often more skilled than members of Congress.
Mr. Barr objects to that format. People on both sides said talks over the shape of the hearing would continue on Monday, but neither side planned to back down.
“The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress,” a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Kerri Kupec, said Sunday. “Therefore, members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning. He remains happy to engage with members on their questions regarding the Mueller report.”
But Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Congress must be able to set the terms.
“The president is trying to pull the plug on congressional oversight power, and this is yet another assault on the legislative function when the witness suggests he will dictate a format of questioning,” Mr. Raskin said Sunday in a telephone interview. “The members are unhappy with the executive branch trying to dictate our work.”
Mr. Nadler is hardly the only Democratic chairman pushing back. Over the weekend, Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, admonished the former White House head of personnel security, Carl Kline, for his failure to comply with a subpoena ordering him to show up for a deposition last week.