Trump's AG pick William Barr says it is 'vitally important' that Mueller's Russia investigation continue
Senate prepares to press attorney general nominee Barr at his confirmation hearing: Which questions are most important?
President Trump’s nominee for attorney general plans to tell senators at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that “it is vitally important” that Special Counsel Robert Mueller be able to continue his Russia investigation.
According to a transcript of his prepared remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee, William Barr apparently tries to appease the concerns of Democratic lawmakers about his views on Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
“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, according to the transcript. “The country needs a credible resolution of these issues. If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.”
The transcript continues: “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.”
This is the second time that Barr will face Senate questioning as part of the attorney general confirmation process. He previously was attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush.
Democrats have raised concerns about comments Barr has made about Mueller's probe, including an unsolicited memo he sent the Justice Department last year criticizing Mueller's inquiry into whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.
Barr, however, plans to say that he's known Mueller for decades, respects him and believes he should be allowed to complete his work.
“I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service,” Barr said. “When he was named special counsel, I said that his selection was ‘good news’ and that, knowing him, I had confidence he would handle the matter properly. I still have that confidence today.”
Barr will also tell senators that Trump didn't seek any assurances or promises before nominating him.
Trump had complained that his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, did not protect him from the Russia investigation. Barr said Trump "sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied, and I have not given him any", other than a promise to run the department with integrity.
Barr will also tell senators that he will continue to prioritize immigration enforcement and says the government must be able to hold and remove people who illegally enter the U.S.
Barr's comments on immigration show similar thinking to Sessions, who had a hardline immigration policy. Sessions drew heavy criticism from immigration activists after defending the Trump administration's policy separating families during a crackdown on those entering the U.S. illegally.
“As we open our front door, and try to admit people in an orderly way, we cannot allow others to flout our legal system by crashing in through the back door,” Barr said. "In short, in order to ensure that our immigration system works properly, we must secure our Nation’s borders, and we must ensure that our laws allow us to process, hold, and remove those who unlawfully enter.”
As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to question Barr, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal in a case dealing with gun rights that also included a challenge to President Donald Trump's appointment of Whitaker to temporarily lead the Justice Department.
The appeal claims Whitaker's appointment is illegal under federal law and asks the court to name Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a party in the case, instead of Whitaker.
The Justice Department in November released an internal legal opinion supporting the legality of Whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general. Trump has called Whitaker "a highly respected person."
Fox News’ Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.