Trump's attorney general nominee meets his Democratic critics

William Barr, President Donald Trump's pick to be the next attorney general, met Thursday with Senate Democr...

Posted: Jan 11, 2019 9:33 AM
Updated: Jan 11, 2019 9:33 AM

William Barr, President Donald Trump's pick to be the next attorney general, met Thursday with Senate Democrats who have questioned his nomination over his criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Barr made private assurances to her that he wouldn't interfere with the Mueller probe.

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Now she needs to hear them in public.

"Well, my intention will be to get that on the record before I'm satisfied," Feinstein told reporters after her meeting with Barr. "It's very important that Mueller be able to have no interference whatsoever. And that's what I would want to hear (in) public."

Feinstein said the meeting went "well" but she didn't tip her hand on whether she would consider supporting Barr, who previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. "To some extent he's a known factor, he's been there before," Feinstein said. "So, the key is that times change and views change and laws change. So, the question is, is he right for this time? And can he really be independent of the White House?"

Democrats plan to make Barr's views on the Mueller investigation a key part of next week's confirmation hearings to replace acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker atop the Justice Department. They've ramped up concerns about Barr's nomination after learning of a memo he wrote last year arguing Mueller's investigation into obstruction of justice was "fatally misconceived."

Democrats also plan to press Barr on numerous issues beyond the special counsel, including his views on presidential pardons and the independence of the Justice Department, as well as his positions on surveillance issues, immigration and abortion law.

Last month, Feinstein sent a letter to Barr with a list of questions about the origins of the memo. She said she "didn't ask him about that" at Thursday's meeting, "but I will in public."

Barr's place atop the Justice Department would put him in charge of Mueller's investigation, giving him the ability to approve or veto decisions like issuing subpoenas and what to do with Mueller's final report. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is planning to leave the Justice Department after Barr is confirmed, has been in charge of supervising Mueller until then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired last year. Whitaker is now in charge of the probe, though the day-to-day management remains in Rosenstein's portfolio.

In addition to Feinstein, Barr was meeting Thursday with several Judiciary Committee Democrats, including Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Barr's meetings with lawmakers began Wednesday with former Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and the panel's new chairman Lindsey Graham. After Graham's meeting, the South Carolina Republican said Barr made clear he was committed to allowing Mueller to finish his investigation unimpeded, and he said that Barr's memo was a result of his concerns about the precedent of obstruction of justice and the firing of political appointees.

But those explanations haven't satisfied Democrats on the committee.

"I think those assurances were self-serving, and even somewhat evasive," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, who added he has yet to get a private meeting on the books with Barr. "One of the reasons I want a meeting is to hear for myself what he has to say."

Barr's private meetings with Democrats have been a point of contention, as several senators say they have requested meetings but were rebuffed, which goes against practice for committee members ahead of a confirmation hearing. Klobuchar took to Twitter Wednesday night to complain that she hadn't been given a chance to sit down with Barr.

By Thursday morning, she had a meeting on the books.

Klobuchar told reporters Thursday that although she was pleased she now had a meeting with the attorney general nominee, she questioned whether the whole episode was a sign the process was moving too quickly to get Barr's confirmation through.

"To me, it feels like they rushed this hearing," she said. "And we want to get a permanent AG in place, but I don't know why they wouldn't have given time to get ... these meetings set up."

Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, met with Barr on Thursday evening. Coons said he was also assured that Barr would not interfere in the Mueller probe after asking him a series of questions.

"I asked him, will you allow the Mueller investigation to continue unimpeded, will you allow prosecutorial decisions by Mueller to advance without interference, will you allow its budget to continue without interference and, in particular, if the President ordered you to fire Robert Mueller, would you do so or would you resign," Coons said.

Coons said that Barr told him, "I think it is very important to the rule of law, to public confidence in the Department of Justice, that the Mueller investigation be allowed to conclude unimpeded."

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 96032

Reported Deaths: 2894
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7110159
DeSoto556559
Harrison385374
Jackson348670
Madison329788
Rankin329377
Lee271468
Forrest247872
Jones247579
Washington223872
Lafayette217339
Lauderdale2049125
Bolivar184066
Oktibbeha177850
Lamar170035
Lowndes156958
Neshoba1566104
Panola147129
Sunflower146546
Warren140550
Leflore140481
Pontotoc126616
Pike123451
Monroe122868
Copiah118433
Scott117427
Coahoma115528
Holmes109659
Marshall109517
Lincoln109053
Grenada108336
Yazoo105930
Simpson103346
Union99724
Tate98737
Leake95338
Adams93837
Wayne90021
Pearl River88353
Marion85935
Prentiss85517
Covington82022
Itawamba81521
Alcorn80311
George77113
Newton77024
Tallahatchie77021
Winston73819
Tishomingo68238
Chickasaw67924
Tippah66917
Attala65925
Walthall60026
Clay59218
Clarke58746
Hancock58222
Jasper57315
Noxubee54816
Smith53215
Calhoun51512
Tunica48615
Claiborne46316
Montgomery46120
Lawrence43313
Yalobusha43314
Perry42319
Humphreys37715
Greene37517
Quitman3735
Stone37112
Jefferson Davis34111
Webster33813
Amite32910
Carroll31612
Wilkinson30518
Kemper28915
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2263
Franklin1923
Choctaw1856
Issaquena1043
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19572348
Mobile13320292
Montgomery8811183
Tuscaloosa8586117
Madison782078
Shelby592349
Lee588759
Baldwin545650
Marshall393343
Calhoun349942
Etowah343945
Morgan327328
Houston280221
Elmore265947
DeKalb240620
St. Clair230835
Walker230683
Talladega214628
Limestone208820
Cullman189020
Dallas178326
Franklin176729
Autauga175725
Russell17573
Lauderdale169833
Colbert164126
Blount160815
Escambia160324
Chilton156431
Jackson156011
Covington138527
Dale135844
Coffee13206
Pike119410
Chambers116142
Tallapoosa115685
Clarke108916
Marion95729
Butler91639
Barbour8737
Winston73812
Marengo71620
Pickens65614
Lowndes65327
Bibb65210
Randolph64213
Hale63428
Lawrence61623
Geneva6074
Cherokee60313
Bullock59914
Monroe5848
Clay5797
Washington55613
Perry5416
Crenshaw53632
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry4935
Macon48119
Fayette4508
Sumter43519
Lamar3662
Cleburne3646
Choctaw34912
Greene30315
Coosa1683
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