Senate Panel Approves Barr Attorney General Nomination

Blanche Robertson
February 9, 2019

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday along party lines to advance William P. Barr's nomination to become attorney general, a procedural step that sets the stage for his confirmation vote next week before the entire Senate.

Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat in the Senate, said he would oppose Barr's confirmation in the final vote.

Democrats said they anxious about confirming Barr to return to the Justice Department - he already served as attorney general in the administration of former President George H.W. Bush - with less than an ironclad promise to release Mueller's findings.

Barr said he takes seriously the department regulations that say Mueller's report should be confidential.

A practicing Catholic and a member of the Knights of Columbus, Barr said in his confirmation hearings that he did not believe his faith would hinder his ability to serve as an effective attorney general. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and committee chairman, said at the outset of Thursday's meeting.

"William Barr has been confirmed by the Senate three times without opposition", said Sen.

Blumenthal said not releasing Mueller's report would be akin to a "coverup." Sen.

In their opposition, Democrats cited a memo Barr wrote previous year to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein before he was nominated objecting to the obstruction aspect of the Mueller probe as "fatally misconceived" and said, "Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction". "In fact, as part of our oversight responsibilities, Congress routinely requests, and receives, confidential information related to closed investigations".

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The Judiciary Committee late last week postponed its vote on advancing Barr's nomination amid concerns from Democrats - which is customary for high-profile nominations.

Barr previously served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush and is highly respected in the conservative legal world.

That view has alarmed Democrats, especially since the obstruction inquiry has been central to Mueller's overall investigation.

Barr was selected after former attorney general Jeff Sessions was pushed out in November 2018.

Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee on Thursday prepared a subpoena to compel Whitaker to testify on Friday, prompting him to say he will not appear unless the subpoena threat is lifted. Barr has publicly and privately raised questions about that probe, which is exploring whether the campaign coordinated with Russian Federation to influence the 2016 election, and lawmakers from both political parties have pressed him on the extent to which he will make its findings public.

The Republican president has repeatedly criticized the investigation as a "witch hunt" and denies any collusion with Moscow.

Patrick Leahy of Vermont called the "extraordinary circumstances" of 2019, as special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained 37 indictments on various charges during his investigation.

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