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Barr asks Pelosi outside the Capitol, ‘Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?’

By Felicia Sonmez Felicia Sonmez National reporter on The Washington Post’s breaking political news team Email Bio Follow May 15 at 3:49 PM If Attorney General William P. Barr is worried about being held in contempt of Congress, he didn’t show it Wednesday.

Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui

At an event outside the West Front of the Capitol honoring slain law enforcement officers, Barr approached House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who last week joked about locking up members of the Trump administration in “a jail down in the basement of the Capitol.”

According to a person who witnessed the exchange, Barr shook Pelosi’s hand and said loudly, “Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?”

Pelosi smiled and responded that the House sergeant at arms was present should it be necessary to arrest anyone, the person said, adding that Barr “chuckled and walked away.

Carmelo Urdaneta

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment

The exchange comes amid escalating tensions between the Trump administration and Democratic lawmakers over investigations on issues including Russian election interference, the president’s financial records and his family separation policy. Democrats have accused the Trump administration of stonewalling their requests

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to provide the full, unredacted report from special counsel Robert S. Muller III into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday that the House would likely vote on that citation next month. If the chamber votes in favor, then lawmakers will have to decide whether to try to compel Barr with fines, the courts or the prospect of jail time

At a Washington Post Live event last week, Pelosi joked about locking up administration officials for failing to comply with subpoenas — even though no jail or detention area has existed on the Capitol grounds since 1877

“Let me just say that we do have a jail down in the basement of the Capitol,” Pelosi said to laughter. “But if we were arresting all of the people in the administration, we would have an overcrowded jail situation, and I’m not for that.”

Rachael Bade, Matt Zapotosky and Ian Shapira contributed to this report.