- William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department, will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that the special counsel Robert Mueller should be allowed to “complete his work” on the Russia investigation.
- Barr will also tell lawmakers that Congress and the public should be “informed” of the results of Mueller’s investigation after it concludes.
- His statements come amid a firestorm surrounding an unsolicited memo he sent to the White House and Justice Department this year in which he called Mueller’s obstruction probe “legally insupportable” and said the Justice Department should not support the Russia investigation.
- Barr’s confirmation hearing will kick off on Tuesday.
William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that the special counsel Robert Mueller should be allowed to conclude the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Barr’s confirmation hearing will kick off on Tuesday. In prepared remarks released Monday, the former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush said, “On my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work.”
Barr’s statement comes amid a firestorm surrounding an unsolicited memo he sent to the White House and Justice Department in June in which he called Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation “legally insupportable.”
In his 20-page memo, Barr argued that Mueller’s obstruction probe is based on an overly expansive reading of the special counsel’s powers.
He also wrote that Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to demand an interview with Trump about obstruction of justice.
“As I understand it, his theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law,” Barr wrote. “Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”
The investigation, Barr added, shouldn’t be sanctioned by the Justice Department.
Barr appeared to walk back his remarks in his prepared testimony.
“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. “The country needs a credible resolution of these issues. If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.”
Barr will also say that Congress and the public should be “informed of the results” of Mueller’s investigation.
“For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” he will say. “I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision.”
Questions about Barr’s recusal will ‘take front and center’ at his confirmation hearing
Democratic lawmakers erupted after Barr’s memo was first reported on in December, and many legal experts said it was a sign that he would need to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe if confirmed.
Barr did not indicate whether he would do so in his prepared testimony.
Questions about whether Barr will recuse himself if confirmed will “take front and center” among Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing, a committee aide told INSIDER over the weekend.
“William Barr’s memo raises significant questions about whether he can remain independent of the White House while overseeing the special counsel,” the aide said.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on the panel, also said she plans to question Barr extensively about his oversight of Mueller if confirmed.
“My intention will be to get that on the record before I’m satisfied,” she said in a statement. “It’s very important that Mueller be able to have no interference whatsoever.”
People familiar with Barr’s plans told the Washington Post that he intends to publicly repeat his pledge not to interfere with or shut down Mueller’s work, but will not make broader or more specific promises about how he will approach the Russia probe or any ethics review of his involvement in it.
“He will promise to do the right thing, and he will promise to protect the integrity of the Justice Department,” one person familiar with Barr’s preparations told The Post.
If the Republican-controlled Senate confirms Barr as attorney general, he would have the power to fire Mueller.
Both Republican and Democrats expect Barr’s controversial memo to loom large over his hearing.
Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesperson,wrote on Twitter that Barr’s memo “raises major questions about whether he should be allowed to oversee the Mueller probe.”
While it’s true that former officials sometimes relay their thoughts on legal issues to the Justice Department, “20-page memos that are sent to counsel for the subject of an investigation” are “not common, and it doesn’t happen by accident,” Miller added.
Ultimately, experts said, Barr’s views on executive power and his decision to defend Trump in a memo to both the Justice Department and to Trump’s lawyers may indicate that if confirmed, he would need to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller.
In his memo, Barr argued that a president can only be accused of obstructing justice if he destroyed evidence or told a witness to lie. But firing Comey, he said, was perfectly within his powers.
In a 2017 Washington Post op-ed, Barr also argued that Trump made “the right call” by firing Comey.
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