The attorney-general nominee attempted to assuage Democrats’ fears that he would be beholden to the president, but parts of his testimony still left them unnerved.
Senate Democrats were undoubtedly heartened to hear from President Donald Trump’s attorney-general nominee, Bill Barr, that he does not believe Special Counsel Robert Mueller is on “a witch hunt” and that he would allow Mueller to complete the Russia probe unimpeded.
But they also appeared considerably unnerved as Barr defended a lengthy memo he wrote attacking Mueller’s obstruction inquiry as “fatally misconceived,” dodged questions about making Mueller’s final report public, and refused to commit to recusing himself from the investigation if advised to do so by ethics officials.
As the likely next head of the Justice Department—Republicans have majority control of the Senate, all but ensuring his confirmation—Barr will be at the center of a tug-of-war between Trump, who has sought to exert greater control over the Justice Department and FBI, and Mueller, who is probing a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to win the 2016 election. Barr is set to replace Jeff Sessions, who was ousted in November following a year-long public humiliation campaign led by the president. Trump never forgave Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation early on in his tenure.