Trump’s AG nominee asserts independence, defends Russia probe
President Donald Trump ‘s nominee for US attorney general, William Barr , on Tuesday emphasized his independence in the face of hypothetical “political interference” while stressing the “vital importance” of allowing the Russia probe to be completed.
“On my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work,” Barr said at his first confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller , who is heading the investigation into alleged connections between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and the Kremlin.
Barr said that ensuring that the Russia probe is completed is “vitally important.”
“I believe 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,” Barr said in his written remarks.
However, he acknowledged that it is possible that Mueller’s full report - including its conclusions - might not be made public because of the “internal regulations” of the Department of Justice.
He said, nevertheless, that “My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.”
During his appearance before lawmakers, Barr insisted on distancing himself from Trump on that issue, given that the president has repeatedly criticized the special counsel and his team for pursuing an investigation that he calls a “fraud” and a “witch hunt.”
Barr acknowledged his longstanding professional association and friendship with Mueller, saying “I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch-hunt,” adding that he believed it would be “unimaginable” for the former FBI chief to engage in conduct that might result in his removal.
When asked by Democratic senators about the possibility that Trump might try to interfere with the probe, the 68-year-old Barr - who served as US attorney general under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s - asserted his “independence,” saying that “I will not be bullied into doing anything that I think is wrong - by anybody, whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the president. I’m going to do what I think is right.”
Since May 2017, Mueller has been investigating the possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia, which US intelligence agencies accuse of interfering in the 2016 presidential vote, as well as the president’s alleged obstruction of justice.
Barr, however, did express agreement with Trump on certain points, expressing his concern about what he called the current “fixation” in the US about the risk posed by Russia on the world stage, something that he said could obscure the danger posed by China.
He stated clearly that he feels that China is Washington’s main rival, adding that he believes that Russia is just half the size it was during the peak of the Cold War, and its long-term economic prospects are very far behind those of China.
Barr also said that a barrier of some kind is needed along the US-Mexico border, given the current trafficking across the frontier of illegal migrants and drugs, thus supporting elements of Trump’s campaign promise to erect a border wall.
The AG nominee will return before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to continue with his confirmation hearing.