AG Nominee William Barr Says Mueller Would Not Go on a 'Witch Hunt', Calls Mueller a 'Straight Shooter'

As President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr’s confirmation hearing got underway on Tuesday, Barr told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he didn’t believe special counsel Robert Mueller “would be involved in a witch hunt,” as the president has repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, and said he would not fire Mueller without due cause.

Barr tried to assure Democrats, who have been trying to secure protections for Mueller and his investigation, that he would allow the special counsel to finish his report.

“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 told the committee. “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.”

Barr added that he believed it was important the Justice Department would be transparent under his leadership, saying, “Second, I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be 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.”

When asked under what circumstances Barr might fire Mueller, the attorney general nominee instead praised Mueller and said it would be difficult to image a situation arising in which he would have to relieve Mueller of his duties.

“Under the regulations, Bob Mueller could only be terminated for good cause. Frankly, it’s unimaginable to me that Bob would ever do anything that gave rise to good cause,” Barr commented. “I believe right now the overarching public interest would be for him to finish.”

Barr, who previously served as attorney general during President George H.W. Bush’s administration, faced tough questions about a 19-page memo he wrote in June 2018 opposing an obstruction of justice case against the president, The Huffington Post reports. In the memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Barr argued that any obstruction of justice inquiry into Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 would be “fatally misconceived.”

While some have been concerned about the memo, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer had even called on Trump to rescind Barr’s nomination over it, Barr addressed the controversy over his memo, ABC News reports.

“I wrote the memo as a former Attorney General who has often weighed in on legal issues of public importance, and I distributed it broadly so that other lawyers would have the benefit of my views,” Barr said in his opening statement.

Downplaying the significance of the memo, Barr said he, as well as other commentators, were basing their analysis on the limited information publicly available at the time.

“As I explained in a recent letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, my memo was narrow in scope, explaining my thinking on a specific obstruction-of-justice theory under a single statute that I thought, based on media reports, the Special Counsel might be considering. The memo did not address — or in any way question — the Special Counsel's core investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election,” Barr added. “Nor did it address other potential obstruction-of-justice theories or argue, as some have erroneously suggested, that a President can never obstruct justice. I wrote it myself, on my own initiative, without assistance, and based solely on public information.”

Barr, who has “known Bob Mueller personally and professionally for 30 years” and is close friends with him, discussed a private conversation he had with Trump in June 2017, as Trump was looking to expand his legal team. Despite not wanting to take up the position, Barr still met with Trump, according to HuffPost. The meeting, which took place at the White House, was brief, and Barr shared with the committee that he told Trump that “Bob is a straight shooter and should be dealt with as such.”

According to Barr, he gave his phone number to Trump but never heard from him.

As attorney general, Barr said his priorities would be to fight violent crime, prosecute hate crimes, enforce and improve immigration laws and protect the right to vote.

Noting that he took the position out of love for the Department of Justice and the law, Barr added that he “want[ed] to help in this circumstance and I am not going to do anything I think is wrong, and I will not be bullied into doing something that I think is wrong, by anybody" including the president or Congress, ABC News reports.