William Barr at Senate Confirmation Hearings: “I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong!”

Dear Commons Community,

The man in the news yesterday was William Barr during his Senate confirmation hearings for Attorney General.

Mr. Barr previously served as attorney general came under President George Bush.  During his testimony, Mr. Barr displayed a grasp of policy and demonstrated his experience as a Washington hand and member of the Republican legal establishment. He is expected to be confirmed, both because Republicans control the Senate and because Democrats are deeply suspicious of Matthew G. Whitaker, the acting attorney general whom Mr. Trump installed after ousting Mr. Sessions in November.

I watched the hearings for about an hour and sensed Barr was honest and credible.  Among his responses:

“I am in a position in life where I can provide the leadership necessary to protect the independence and reputation of the department,” Mr. Barr, 68, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, adding that he would not hesitate to resign if Mr. Trump pushed him to act improperly.

“I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong — by anybody, whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the president,” Mr. Barr said. “I’m going to do what I think is right.”

He also pledged that he would refuse any order from Mr. Trump either to fire Mr. Mueller without good cause in violation of regulations or to rescind those rules first.

“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.

Mr. Barr repeatedly said he would let Mr. Mueller, whom he described as a friend of his for decades, finish his work and dismissed Mr. Trump’s attacks on the inquiry.  “I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said.

Under questioning about whether he had sought to push out the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who is widely expected to leave if Mr. Barr is confirmed, the nominee said he had not — and, indeed, had asked Mr. Rosenstein to stay on longer for a transition period.

The only aspect of his testimony that was problematic involved making public Special Counsel Mueller’s final report.   Barr  said that under his interpretation of the special counsel regulations, he didn’t believe that Mueller’s final report was required to be made public. Barr said he believed Mueller’s report would be “confidential,” but that as attorney general he would issue a public summary of its findings.

Barr also said he believed that the attorney general had some “flexibility and discretion” about what he could disclose to the public after the Mueller investigation concluded.

A section of the regulations for special counsels says that, at the end of a probe, the counsel’s office “shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by” investigators. The regulations also state that the attorney general “may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.”

Barr said his “objective and goal” would be to push for as much transparency as he could. 

“All I can say at this stage… is that I’m going to try to get the information out there, consistent with these regulations,” he said.

Barr said he’d likely make public any conclusions by the Mueller investigation, adding that it was hard “to conceive of a conclusion that would run afoul of the regs as currently written.”

My conclusion is that he will be easily confirmed with support from both Republicans and Democrats.


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