AG Nominee Begins Confirmation Hearing 01/15 06:30

AG Nominee Begins Confirmation Hearing 01/15 06:30

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee will 
have to navigate his confirmation hearing skillfully, emphasizing his support 
for President Donald Trump's policies while assuring Democrats he will act 
independently and won't interfere with the special counsel's Russia 

   Barr will face questions Tuesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee about 
his relationship with Trump and his views on executive powers.

   Barr plans to tell legislators that Trump never sought any promises, 
assurances or commitments --- and that he didn't offer Trump any --- before he 
was nominated for the post.

   Trump has repeatedly complained that his first attorney general, Jeff 
Sessions, was insufficiently loyal because he recused himself from special 
counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Russia and 
the 2016 Trump campaign. Trump ultimately forced Sessions from office.

   Barr, 68, is expected to be confirmed, unless there is a major surprise 
during the hearing. It would be his second stint as attorney general, a 
position he held from 1991 to 1993 during the George H.W. Bush administration.

   The hearing will be the first time a high-profile nominee will come before 
the committee since it considered the Supreme Court nomination of Brett 
Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct. The panel has a new chairman, 
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

   On Monday, the Justice Department moved to pre-empt the most significant 
questions that Barr is likely to face by releasing his prepared remarks . Barr 
plans to tell the senators that it is "vitally important" that Mueller be 
allowed to complete his investigation and that he believes Congress and the 
public should learn the results.

   "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 says.

   Barr describes Mueller, a former Justice Department colleague, as a friend 
he has known personally and professionally for 30 years. Mueller headed the 
department's criminal division when Barr served as attorney general.

   The special counsel is required to confidentially report his findings to the 
Justice Department. In his prepared remarks, Barr stops short of directly 
pledging to release Mueller's report, but he expresses general support for 
disclosing the findings, whatever they may be.

   Democrats had raised concerns about Barr's prior comments about the Russia 
investigation, including an unsolicited memo he sent to Deputy Attorney General 
Rod Rosenstein last year criticizing the inquiry into whether the president had 
obstructed justice.

   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, he said in a letter to Graham. Copies also were sent by Barr to White 
House lawyer Emmet Flood, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Pat Cipollone, 
who is now White House counsel. Barr said he discussed the contents of the memo 
with Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow and Jane and Martin Raskin.

   The development is likely to raise even more questions at the hearing about 
Barr's contact with those close to Trump ahead of his nomination. He has 
insisted that the memo was not to influence public opinion about Mueller's 

   Barr has previously said the president's firing of FBI Director James Comey 
was appropriate and that the Mueller prosecution team, criticized by Trump for 
including prosecutors who have contributed to Democrats, should have had more 

   Barr's role leading the Russia investigation may be especially important 
since Rosenstein, who has overseen the day-to-day work of Mueller's team, 
expects to leave the Justice Department soon after Barr is confirmed. It is not 
clear how much of the investigation will be left by then.

   Barr would replace acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who declined to 
recuse himself from the investigation --- despite the advice of a Justice 
Department ethics official and calls from Democrats who cited Whitaker's past 
critical comments on the probe.


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