William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general, will seek to persuade senators Tuesday that he’ll protect special counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation from political interference, according to his written remarks released by the Justice Department.
“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 tell senators, according to his prepared testimony. “I will follow the Special Counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work.”
Barr, of counsel at Kirkland & Ellis, will field questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning Tuesday as part of his two-day confirmation hearing. Among the host of questions he will face, one topic is sure to dominate the rest: the fate of the special counsel probe and a final report on its findings.
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The nominee, who previously served as U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993, is expected to assume oversight of Mueller’s investigation. In his remarks, Barr said he believes it is “very important” that the public and lawmakers are informed of the “results” of the special counsel’s work.
“For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. 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,” Barr will say.
Barr will also seek to downplay a June 2018 memo he sent to the Justice Department. The 19-page letter, deriding a possible inquiry into whether Trump committed obstruction of justice, has fallen under intense scrutiny. In his remarks, Barr describes the memo as “narrow in scope” and only addressing a single obstruction of justice theory he believed Mueller was pursuing.
“The memo did not address—or in any way question—the Special Counsel’s core investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Nor did it address other potential obstruction-of-justice theories or argue, as some have erroneously suggested, that a President can never obstruct justice,” Barr said.
Barr, pledging to run an independent Justice Department, also plans to testify that Trump sought “no assurances, promises, or commitments from (Barr) of any kind, either express or implied.” Trump nominated Barr in December after former AG Jeff Sessions resigned at the president’s request.
Barr visited several committee members on Capitol Hill last week in preparation for his hearing.
One of them—committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina—said Barr indicated he would ensure that Mueller could complete his probe. Graham also said Barr described Mueller as a longtime friend, a description matched by Barr’s written testimony.
But Graham’s comments did not assuage the concerns of some of the panel’s Democrats, who are expected to seek firm commitments from Barr during his hearing.
“I want an ironclad, specific commitment that he will support the special counsel,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said Wednesday. “Not only to avoid interfering and to protect the special counsel from political interference, but that he will support the special counsel when subpoenas are requested and when indictments are sought.”
Blumenthal also said he wants Barr “to commit to full disclosure” of a final Mueller report.
Democrats plan to press Barr on an array of topics, including his views on the Justice Department’s controversial decision last summer to drop its defense of the Affordable Care Act.
“I want to know whether he’ll defend the United States when it’s sued on the Affordable Care Act,” Blumenthal said, referring to ongoing or future litigation involving the law. “He has to tell me, ‘I’ll defend the laws of the United States.’”
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, echoed that concern. She said Wednesday she intends to also question Barr on voting and civil rights, and the DOJ’s consent decrees with police departments—all matters she said fell “by the wayside” under Sessions.
Barr, in his written remarks, also outlined his priorities for the Justice Department, if confirmed. He said he will prioritize fighting violent crime, prosecuting hate crimes, enforcing and improving immigration laws, and ensuring the integrity of elections.
“I will build on the work already done by Special Counsel Mueller and current Department of Justice leadership and ensure that the full might of our resources are brought to bear against foreign persons who unlawfully interfere in our elections. I believe that our country must respond to any foreign interference with the strongest measures, and we must work with partners at the state level to ensure that our election infrastructure is completely protected,” he said.
Read the prepared remarks here: