Published: Wed, January 16, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Trump’s attorney-general nominee pledges to shield Mueller’s Russian Federation probe

Trump’s attorney-general nominee pledges to shield Mueller’s Russian Federation probe

President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general will tell senators "it is vitally important" that special counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his Russian Federation investigation, and said he believes Congress and the public should learn the results, according to remarks prepared for his confirmation hearing.

Barr's testimony is being closely watched because he would assume oversight of the Mueller probe at a critical time - and because of his unsolicited memo that went after the probe and questioned its foray into potential obstruction of justice. Comey was overseeing a counter-intelligence probe on suspected election interference by Moscow and his dismissal led to the Department of Justice's appointment of Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director.

"We're all in the dark", Barr said of the inquiry. Rosenstein will reportedly step down as Deputy AG after Barr's confirmation, which seems highly probable given Republican control of the Senate.

"Let me address a few matters I know are on the minds of some members of this Committee", wrote Barr, 68, who has experience in the role left vacant by the departure of Jeff Sessions, having served as the head of the Justice Department from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush.

If confirmed, Barr would succeed acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who was appointed by the president to temporarily replace Sessions after the commander-in-chief fired him from his job as the nation's top law enforcement official.

Barr's supervisory role in the Russian Federation probe may be especially important since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and has overseen his day-to-day work, expects to leave the Justice Department soon after Barr is confirmed.

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 a year ago, acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.

Barr also said "it is vitally important" that Mueller be allowed to complete his investigation and that Congress and the public should learn the results. Barr will answer to questions from Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democrats also grilled Barr on the expansive view of presidential power he's displayed at the Justice Department and in the years since.

Barr told Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar last week that he would recuse himself from the Justice Department's efforts to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner Inc. Rosenstein did not respond and was "sphinx-like", Barr recalled.

Barr also discussed a conversation with Trump in June 2017, when Trump was looking to expand his private legal team.

The Justice Department will then be able to provide the report to Congress and possibly the public. Barr stopped short of directly pledging to release Mueller's report, but he expressed general support for disclosing the findings.

While Barr committed to seeking the advice of career Justice Department ethics officials on whether he should recuse himself from the Mueller probe because of his past comments, Barr said he would make the decision himself "in good faith", based on the laws and facts. 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.

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