William Barr, President Trump’s pick for attorney general, will tell senators at his confirmation hearing that it is “vitally important” that special counsel Robert Mueller is allowed to finish his investigation, according to prepared remarks obtained by the Associated Press on Monday.
“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 is set to tell lawmakers. His confirmation hearings are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Barr also says that it’s “very important” that Congress and the public be informed of the special counsel’s findings into potential coordination between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia.
“For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” Barr 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 decisions.”
The remarks are an acknowledgment that Barr’s handling of Mueller’s investigation will take center stage at Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. They’re intended to reassure Democratic senators troubled by Barr’s past comments on the special counsel’s probe, including an unsolicited memo he sent the Justice Department last year criticizing the inquiry into whether the president had obstructed justice.
He also previously said the president’s firing of FBI director James Comey was appropriate and that the Mueller team, criticized by Trump for including prosecutors who have contributed to Democrats, should have had more “balance.” –Bloomberg
Barr’s previous comments criticizing the Mueller probe raised alarms among Democrats that he might stifle or end the seemingly-endless investigation. Some have questioned whether Barr would approve a subpoena for Trump if he refuses to answer additional questions, and whether Congress should see whatever conclusion Mueller’s team reaches.
During private meetings last week, Barr told lawmakers that Trump had “sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied.”
“As Attorney General, my allegiance will be to the rule of law, the Constitution, and the American people,” Barr’s statement reads. “That is how it should be. That is how it must be. And, if you confirm me, that is how it will be.”
Barr’s supervisory role may be especially important since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May 2017 and has overseen his day-to-day work, expects to leave the Justice Department soon after Barr is confirmed. It is not clear how much of the investigation will be left by that point.
Barr would replace acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who declined to recuse himself from the investigation over past critical comments on it — despite calls from Democrats and the advice of a Justice Department ethics official. –Bloomberg
Barr’s memo in June, sent to Rosenstein and the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, criticized the “fatally misconceived” theory of obstruction that Mueller appeared to be pursuing. Barr noted that presidents cannot be criminally investigated for actions they are allowed to take under the Constitution, such as firing an official who works for them – just because of a subjective determination that they may have had a corrupt state of mind.
DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec noted that Barr wrote the memo on his own accord, only relying on publicly available information – and that senior ethics officials have given it a green light in terms of conflict of interest relating to Barr’s work as attorney general.
Barr will say in his memo that it was narrowly focused on a single theory of obstruction in media reports, and that “The memo did not address – or in any way question – the Special Counsel’s core investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”