Tuesday 23 July 2019

Mueller will be allowed to finish Russia probe, vows Trump nominee

President 'never sought assurances' from his pick for attorney general

U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 15, 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 15, 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Paula Royale

US President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general has said "it is vitally important" that special counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his Russia investigation in prepared remarks for his Senate confirmation hearing yesterday.

William Barr also insisted in testimony he will deliver to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Mr Trump never sought any promises, assurances or commitments before selecting him to be the country's chief law enforcement officer.

In releasing written testimony ahead of his hearing, the Justice Department moved to pre-empt the most significant questions Mr Barr is likely to face from Democrats on the panel - including whether he can oversee, without bias or interference, the final stages of Mr Mueller's probe into potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign, and whether he will permit the findings to 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," Mr Barr said.

He described Mr Mueller, a former Justice Department colleague, as a friend he has known personally and professionally for 30 years. Mr Mueller headed the department's criminal division while Mr Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993.

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

"For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can, consistent with the law," Mr Barr said. "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."

The remarks are intended to reassure Democratic senators who were troubled by Mr Barr's past comments on the special counsel's probe, including an unsolicited memo he sent the Justice Department last year criticising the inquiry into whether the president had obstructed justice.

Mr Barr also sent the memo to White House lawyers and discussed it with Mr Trump's personal attorneys and a lawyer who represents Mr Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, he said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham.

Copies were also sent by Mr Barr to White House lawyer Emmet Flood, solicitor general Noel Francisco and Pat Cipollone, who is now White House counsel.

Mr Barr said he discussed the contents of the memo with Mr Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow and Jane and Martin Raskin.

Mr Barr also previously said the president's firing of FBI director James Comey was appropriate and said the Mueller prosecution team, criticised by Mr Trump for including prosecutors who have contributed to Democrats, should have had more "balance".

Those stances raised alarms that Mr Barr could stifle the investigation as it reaches its final stages or make decisions that protect the president.

Among the questions that he might confront if, as expected, he is confirmed, would be whether to approve a subpoena for Mr Trump if he refuses to answer additional questions, and whether to disclose to Congress whatever report or conclusions Mr Mueller turns in.

Mr Barr, who also moved to quell concerns during private meetings last week with lawmakers, insisted that Mr Trump had "sought no assurances, promises or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied".

"As attorney general, my allegiance will be to the rule of law, the constitution and the American people," Mr Barr said.

"That is how it should be. That is how it must be. And, if you confirm me, that is how it will be, and I have not given him any [assurances], other than that I would run the department with professionalism and integrity." (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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