It was a quintessential moment during the Mueller hearings. Sen. Kamala Harris of California asked Attorney General William Barr a very direct question: Did the White House ever ask him to investigate anyone. In response to that inquiry, Barr stumbled, awkwardly, confusingly. And with new information coming to light about his possible involvement in an impeachable offense by Donald Trump, Harris is asking the head of the Department of Justice to appear before Congress to answer her question once again.

The request came hours after the White House released a five-page partial transcript of a phone call Trump made to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. In it, Trump presses Zelensky to do him a “favor” and “look into” Democratic rival Joe Biden and son Hunter’s dealings in the country. Though both sides have denied that the exchange involved a quid pro quo, Trump clearly states during the call that he would have his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, as well as the U.S. Attorney General, follow up with him. 

William Barr speaks at podium.
US Attorney General William Barr speaks during the Summit on Combating Anti-Semitism at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump’s mention of AG Barr has Democratic lawmakers taking a second look at the government official’s testimony before Congress in May. “There have been discussions of, of matters out there that, uh — they have not asked me to open an investigation,” Barr said at the time.

The hesitation on Barr’s part prompted the 2020 presidential hopeful to ask for a probe into whether or not Barr had in fact been pressured by the Trump administration to open criminal investigations. She called his response “alarming” and said she had “grave concern about the independence of the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General William Barr.”

In light of this week’s developments, Harris’ concerns have resurfaced. But if Barr does reappear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he should be prepared to offer up an honest and direct response. Harris has already put him on notice that “this time, he better have an answer.” 

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