Confirmation Hearing to Probe AG Nominee William Barr's Views on Executive Privilege

Confirmation Hearing to Probe AG Nominee William Barr's Views on Executive Privilege

Kerry Wise
January 16, 2019

William Barr, President Donald Trump's handpicked nominee to become Attorney General, has just said he would not commit to recusing himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.

"The memo did not address - or in any way question - the Special Counsel's core investigation", Barr will tell the panel.

Since his nomination last month, Democrats have demanded an explanation for a memo he authored questioning Mr. Mueller's authority and lambasting the probe for looking into obstruction of justice allegations.

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Barr has broad support from Republicans who control the Senate, but some Democrats have questioned whether he is the best choice to serve as the top USA law enforcement officer at a time when Trump faces several investigations. Even some Democrats have been looking to move on from acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who declined to remove himself from matters involving the Russian Federation probe and has faced scrutiny over his private dealings.

Barr, who served as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, has come under scrutiny from Democrats who claim that the nominee's past remarks about the Mueller probe are disqualifying.

He said he raised his concerns at a lunch previous year with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and oversees his work.

Barr could benefit from the fact that some Democrats view him as a better option than the man who took over the job after Trump forced out Jeff Sessions past year, acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.

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"On my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work", Barr said in the prepared remarks ahead of two days of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee starting on Tuesday morning.

"I believe it is in the best interest of everyone - the President, Congress, and, most importantly, the American people - that this matter be resolved by allowing the Special Counsel to complete his work", Barr will say, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of his prepared remarks. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Barr during Barr's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I'm going to do what I think is right". Barr said that Rosenstein had no visible reaction to his criticism, describing Rosenstein as "sphinx-like".

Democrats - and perhaps Republicans - are sure to have questions about Barr's approach to Mueller, especially since Barr has been critical of the Mueller probe in the past.

Barr said a friend who was working to build the team reached out to him and asked what he had said about the president publicly and whether he had any conflicts.

Barr also sent the memo to White House lawyers and discussed it with Trump's personal attorneys and a lawyer who represents Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, among others.

The special counsel is required to confidentially report his findings to the Justice Department.

Barr says pressuring "chronic, violent criminals", protecting free speech rights, enforcing immigration laws and "fostering confidence" in election outcomes would be his priorities as attorney general. He said presidents can not be criminally investigated for actions they are permitted to take under the Constitution, such as firing officials who work for them, just because of a subjective determination that they may have had a corrupt state of mind. He also called the probe into whether Trump obstructed justice 'fatally misconceived.' Rosenstein said it didn't have an impact on him.

"Barr also said he would support releasing Mueller's findings to the public".