Barr nomination heads to full Senate after party-line Judiciary vote

Leroy Wright
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.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the committee's chair, said that Barr had to be talked into returning to the Justice Department and that he trusted him to be "fair to the public and true to the law". Democrats have raised concerns that he may limit the scope of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in US elections.

For the time being, Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker will remain in charge of the department - and the Mueller investigation. At the Judiciary Committee's hearing Thursday, all 10 panel Democrats voted against moving the nomination forward, while all 12 Republicans voted to advance it.

Barr, who previously served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993, would succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was pushed out by Trump past year over the president's anger that he had recused from the Russian Federation investigation. He added that his "main goal" is to make sure that Mueller finishes his report "without interference" and trusts that Barr would "share as much as he reasonably can", while protecting confidential information. I said 'You got a lot of good choices here.' And he asked about Bill Barr I said, 'That would be a great choice I think because you know what you are getting.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee's top Democrat, said that Barr did not commit to providing Mueller's report to Congress, only follow department rules and regulations on what should be public.

"This is particularly concerning, as nothing in existing law or regulations prevents the attorney general from sharing the report", Feinstein said Thursday. Dianne Feinstein, said last week that she is anxious that Barr won't be a check on the president who appointed him. In the memo, Barr wrote that Trump could not have obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey since it was act the president was constitutionally entitled to take.

In part, they say Barr left open possible loopholes in his commitment to airing Mueller's findings and a broad view of presidential power that might allow Trump to interfere in Mueller and other investigations into his campaign, family or associates. While Barr has vowed to be as transparent as he can be, Democratic lawmakers have said that is not adequate.

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