The next Attorney General won’t recuse himself from the Robert Mueller investigation, but he won’t end it either. “On my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work,” William Barr plans to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee when they meet this week to consider his appointment as Attorney General. Barr, who will take over responsibility for supervising Mueller once confirmed, will declare in his opening statement that he considers it “vitally important” that the investigation does not get shut down prematurely:
President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as the next attorney general, William Barr, plans to tell Congress this week at his confirmation hearings that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign should continue unimpeded.
“I believe it is vitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete his investigation,” Barr plans to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to prepared remarks obtained by NBC News.
“For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” Barr plans to 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.”
That might not make Donald Trump too happy, nor will Barr’s extension of those thoughts. CNN reports from its own sources that Barr plans to pledge as much transparency as possible “within the law.” That includes making the Mueller report public, or at least as much of it as can be published:
Attorney General nominee William Barr said that, if confirmed, he would let special counsel Robert Mueller finish his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and believes the results should be made public. …
“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,” he 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.”
Congress and the public should be “be informed of the results of the special counsel’s work,” he will say.
Will that satisfy Senate Democrats on the Judiciary panel when the hearing starts tomorrow? Almost certainly not, but it’s probably a necessary entrée. Barr began shifting to a less confrontational position last week when he agreed to start meeting with key Democratic committee members after having first excused himself because of the government shutdown. When Amy Klobuchar publicly questioned Barr’s logic on that — Barr is not in government service at the moment — he did a 180.
Even these pledges are unlikely to lower the temperature at the confirmation hearing. Both sides are still nursing grudges from the Brett Kavanaugh trainwreck last fall, and Politico reports that each side thinks it’s the other who has to behave better this time, especially chair Lindsey Graham:
“I’m going to let it be up to [Democrats]. You pick these fights at your own peril. [Barr will] be challenged for sure. Hopefully respectfully,” Graham said.
Countered Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “I hope that Lindsey Graham can be the Lindsey Graham that I worked on immigration reform with. And not the Lindsey Graham who yelled during the Kavanaugh hearing.” …
“Hopefully he won’t go after the senators in any manner,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who was asked by Kavanaugh if she had a drinking problem.
“I guess the question we all have is, ‘Is this going to be Kavanaugh 2.0?’ Where it’s really not about the search for the truth, it’s more about character assassination,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “So I can hope for the best, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
The oddest thing about this nomination is how much it’s been flying under the radar. We haven’t heard much at all about Barr, not from the White House and not really from the media either. If there’s been an effort to gin up a character assassination, it hasn’t floated out yet, and time is running short. The GOP will have enough votes to recommend Barr for confirmation out of the committee and to confirm Barr on their own in a floor vote. Except for a few old threads about Iran-Contra, hardly anything has been put forward as a caution against his appointment.
Perhaps Democrats might consider Barr the best possible candidate they’d be likely to see for this post. They’re probably right.