WASHINGTON — William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, said Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be allowed to complete his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, even though Barr himself has previously criticized the probe.
In prepared remarks for his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Barr wrote that “it is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation. I have known Bob Mueller personally and professionally for 30 years. We worked closely together throughout my previous ensure at the Department of Justice under President Bush. We’ve been friends since. I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service.”
Democrats are likely to ask Barr about his previous criticism of Mueller’s probe, including a memo he wrote in June, 2018, that called the inquiry into whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice a “novel and extravagant theory.”
Barr has also made remarks that have been supportive of the idea that there should be more investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
In his testimony, Barr wrote that “if confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation. I will follow the special counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work.”
In the prepared remarks, Barr also said he believes that 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.”
There are signs that Mueller is completing his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded with the regime of Vladimir Putin. A question is whether that report will be released to the public. Barr stops short of saying he will support such a move, while vowing “transparency.”
Barr also tried to address his previous criticism of the Mueller probe. He said he 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.” He said the memo, addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel, narrowly focused on a specific obstruction of justice theory.
“The memo did not address — or in any way question — the special counsel’s core investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election,” Barr wrote. “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.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter that Barr’s opening statement “is the bare minimum we should expect from an Attorney General. It doesn’t undo the fact that Mr. Barr auditioned for the job with a secret, unsolicited memo attacking the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”