Attorney General Nominee Promises to Allow Mueller to Finish His Work

Attorney General Nominee Promises to Allow Mueller to Finish His Work

William P. Barr, the president’s nominee for attorney general, goes before senators for his confirmation hearing starting Tuesday.CreditCreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — William P. Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, promised on Monday that he would allow the special counsel to continue his investigation, seeking to allay Democrats’ fears that he might shut down the inquiry.

“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 in written testimony that he plans to deliver on Tuesday at the start of his two-day confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The country needs a credible resolution of these issues,” he added. “If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.”

But Mr. Barr’s written statement also included a subtle caveat, limiting his assurances about the investigation to issues under his control: “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,” he wrote.

That qualification could be important because Mr. Barr has long advanced a philosophy of strong executive powers under which almost any executive branch decision is ultimately the president’s to make and the president is the nation’s top law-enforcement official, not the attorney general.

After Mr. Barr was nominated last month, an unsolicited memo emerged that he had sent to Justice Department officials and the president’s lawyers last year criticizing a focus of the inquiry: whether the president obstructed justice by firing James B. Comey as F.B.I. director in a possible effort to impede the inquiry itself.

“Obviously, the president and any other official can commit obstruction in this classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth-finding function,” Mr. Barr wrote, noting that the president is not exempt from the law.

The memo prompted concerns among congressional Democrats that Mr. Barr might stop the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, if Mr. Trump ordered him to do so. The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the leading Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, have called on Mr. Trump in recent days to rescind Mr. Barr’s nomination, saying that his memo disqualifies him to lead the department.

In his planned remarks, Mr. Barr said that his memo addressed only the single obstruction-of-justice issue and that he did not argue that a president can never obstruct justice.

“The memo did not address — or in any way question — the special counsel’s core investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election,” Mr. Barr planned to say. “I wrote it myself, on my own initiative, without assistance, and based solely on public information.”

In his prepared testimony, Mr. Barr also said he would follow the rules governing Mr. Mueller’s appointment and work to allow him to finish the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether any Trump associates conspired with it.

“I will follow the special counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work,” Mr. Barr planned to say, according to the prepared remarks.

Nonetheless, senators still plan to press Mr. Barr about the memo. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the leading Democrat on the Judiciary committee, said in a letter to Mr. Barr that she plans to ask him why he wrote the memo, who he conferred with in writing it, and exactly who he shared it with.

Mr. Barr also said that he would provide as much information to the public as the law allowed about the results of the inquiry.

Noting that they worked together at the Justice Department under President George Bush, Mr. Barr planned to say that he has known and respected Mr. Mueller as a colleague and friend for 30 years and that he had confidence that Mr. Mueller would handle the special counsel inquiry properly.

Mr. Barr said in his prepared testimony that he reluctantly accepted the nomination out of a sense of civic duty, and that Mr. Trump “has sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied.”

In a letter of support for Mr. Barr’s nomination, former Justice Department officials including former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and James M. Cole, an Obama administration deputy attorney general, wrote that Mr. Barr, who was attorney general under Mr. Bush, served without “regard to favor or politics.”

Mr. Barr will lay out his other priorities at the hearing including clamping down on illegal immigration and ensuring the integrity of elections, according to his prepared remarks. “The attorney general must ensure that the administration of justice — the enforcement of the law — is above and away from politics,” Mr. Barr planned to say.

Charlie Savage contributed reporting.


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