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Pictures | Thu May 2, 2019 | 6:55pm EDT

A history of empty chairs as political props

Political theater sometimes calls for props. On Thursday Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee pulled out a classic: the empty chair. When U.S. Attorney General William Barr failed to show up for a committee hearing to testify about his handling of the Mueller report, Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler convened the hearing anyway. At the center of the room was a long witness table with a folded placard bearing Barr's name. Behind that was a single empty chair, all neatly arranged for the cameras. It wasn't the first time - nor likely the last - that vacant chairs were used to make a political point.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Political theater sometimes calls for props. On Thursday Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee pulled out a classic: the empty chair. When U.S. Attorney General William Barr failed to show up for a committee hearing to...more

Political theater sometimes calls for props. On Thursday Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee pulled out a classic: the empty chair. When U.S. Attorney General William Barr failed to show up for a committee hearing to testify about his handling of the Mueller report, Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler convened the hearing anyway. At the center of the room was a long witness table with a folded placard bearing Barr's name. Behind that was a single empty chair, all neatly arranged for the cameras. It wasn't the first time - nor likely the last - that vacant chairs were used to make a political point. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
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In November 2017, Democratic leaders in Congress skipped a meeting with President Donald Trump that was supposed to focus on the budget and avert a government shutdown. When Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi declined to attend the White House meeting, President Trump and Republican leaders went ahead without them. The president was flanked by empty seats on either side of him, representing the absent legislators. "We have a lot of differences," Trump said. "So they've decided not to show up. They've been all talk and they've been no action and now it's even worse. Now it's not even talk." Schumer and Pelosi said they pulled out of the meeting because of a tweet Trump sent earlier in the day attacking them as weak on illegal immigration and eager to raise taxes. The government shut down 24 days later. Washington, D.C., November 28, 2017. 

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In November 2017, Democratic leaders in Congress skipped a meeting with President Donald Trump that was supposed to focus on the budget and avert a government shutdown. When Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi declined to attend the White House meeting,...more

In November 2017, Democratic leaders in Congress skipped a meeting with President Donald Trump that was supposed to focus on the budget and avert a government shutdown. When Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi declined to attend the White House meeting, President Trump and Republican leaders went ahead without them. The president was flanked by empty seats on either side of him, representing the absent legislators. "We have a lot of differences," Trump said. "So they've decided not to show up. They've been all talk and they've been no action and now it's even worse. Now it's not even talk." Schumer and Pelosi said they pulled out of the meeting because of a tweet Trump sent earlier in the day attacking them as weak on illegal immigration and eager to raise taxes. The government shut down 24 days later. Washington, D.C., November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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It was the night Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president in 2012, was to accept his party's nomination at the convention. But before Romney's acceptance speech, Clint Eastwood appeared as a last-minute speaker to warm up the crowd. He ad-libbed a monologue with an imaginary President Barack Obama next to an empty chair. The phrase "invisible Obama" went viral on the Internet, and pictures of people with empty chairs filled Twitter. Obama's own Twitter account posted a picture of Obama sitting in a chair marked "The President" with the comment "This seat's taken." Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012. 

REUTERS/Jason Reed

It was the night Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president in 2012, was to accept his party's nomination at the convention. But before Romney's acceptance speech, Clint Eastwood appeared as a last-minute speaker to warm up the crowd. He...more

It was the night Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president in 2012, was to accept his party's nomination at the convention. But before Romney's acceptance speech, Clint Eastwood appeared as a last-minute speaker to warm up the crowd. He ad-libbed a monologue with an imaginary President Barack Obama next to an empty chair. The phrase "invisible Obama" went viral on the Internet, and pictures of people with empty chairs filled Twitter. Obama's own Twitter account posted a picture of Obama sitting in a chair marked "The President" with the comment "This seat's taken." Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed
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On a Tuesday night in 1999, President Bill Clinton gave the third State of the Union address of his second term. Some chairs on the Republican side were deliberately left empty when GOP congressmen walked out before the president finished. The Republican-majority House had voted several weeks earlier for Clinton's impeachment. Washington, D.C., January 19, 1999. 

REUTERS/Larry Downing

On a Tuesday night in 1999, President Bill Clinton gave the third State of the Union address of his second term. Some chairs on the Republican side were deliberately left empty when GOP congressmen walked out before the president finished. The...more

On a Tuesday night in 1999, President Bill Clinton gave the third State of the Union address of his second term. Some chairs on the Republican side were deliberately left empty when GOP congressmen walked out before the president finished. The Republican-majority House had voted several weeks earlier for Clinton's impeachment. Washington, D.C., January 19, 1999. REUTERS/Larry Downing
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In 2007, the House Judiciary Committee sat across from an empty chair reserved for former White House counsel Harriet Miers. Under President Bush's orders, Miers refused to attend the hearing, which was intended to investigate the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys. The house voted 223-32 to hold Miers, along with former White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, in contempt for failing to testify and produce subpoenaed documents. Washington, D.C., July 12, 2007.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In 2007, the House Judiciary Committee sat across from an empty chair reserved for former White House counsel Harriet Miers. Under President Bush's orders, Miers refused to attend the hearing, which was intended to investigate the dismissal of nine...more

In 2007, the House Judiciary Committee sat across from an empty chair reserved for former White House counsel Harriet Miers. Under President Bush's orders, Miers refused to attend the hearing, which was intended to investigate the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys. The house voted 223-32 to hold Miers, along with former White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, in contempt for failing to testify and produce subpoenaed documents. Washington, D.C., July 12, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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When Twitter and Facebook executives faced Congress to defend their companies over election and public opinion interference, a seat was left empty. Google had declined the Senate Intelligence Committee's request, but later offered to send its chief legal officer. The committee rejected the offer, saying it wanted to hear from corporate decision-makers. "You don't understand the problem if you don't see this as a large effort from whole of government and the private sector," said the committee's Republican chairman, Richard Burr, taking a jab at Google. Google later released a written "testimony" describing the company's efforts to combat influence operations. Washington, D.C., September 5, 2018. 

REUTERS/Jim Bourg

When Twitter and Facebook executives faced Congress to defend their companies over election and public opinion interference, a seat was left empty. Google had declined the Senate Intelligence Committee's request, but later offered to send its chief...more

When Twitter and Facebook executives faced Congress to defend their companies over election and public opinion interference, a seat was left empty. Google had declined the Senate Intelligence Committee's request, but later offered to send its chief legal officer. The committee rejected the offer, saying it wanted to hear from corporate decision-makers. "You don't understand the problem if you don't see this as a large effort from whole of government and the private sector," said the committee's Republican chairman, Richard Burr, taking a jab at Google. Google later released a written "testimony" describing the company's efforts to combat influence operations. Washington, D.C., September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
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When Attorney General William Barr failed to show up for a committee hearing to testify about his handling of the Mueller report, Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler convened the hearing anyway, leaving Democratic representatives facing an empty chair. Barr refused to appear after being unable to come to agreement with Nadler over the hearing's format. Washington, D.C., May 2, 2019.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

When Attorney General William Barr failed to show up for a committee hearing to testify about his handling of the Mueller report, Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler convened the hearing anyway, leaving Democratic representatives facing an empty...more

When Attorney General William Barr failed to show up for a committee hearing to testify about his handling of the Mueller report, Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler convened the hearing anyway, leaving Democratic representatives facing an empty chair. Barr refused to appear after being unable to come to agreement with Nadler over the hearing's format. Washington, D.C., May 2, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
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