WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's nominee to be attorney general will pledge on Tuesday to allow special counsel Robert Mueller to "complete his work," calling that in the "best interest of everyone," according to written testimony provided by the Justice Department.
Bill Barr's views on the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign have been front and center since Trump's announcement that he would nominate Barr, who previously served as attorney general in the George H. W. Bush administration, to replace Jeff Sessions, who Trump forced from office in November.
Those questions became even more central to his nomination when the Wall Street Journal reported that Barr had written a memo to Department of Justice lawyers last summer that was highly critical of an element of the Mueller probe — a potential obstruction of justice investigation — while acknowledging that it was written without any internal information about the investigation.
Now, however, Barr and the Justice Department are attempting to get ahead of those questions, which are sure to come at Tuesday's scheduled confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Justice Department on Monday morning highlighted several comments that Barr is set to make in his testimony.
"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. 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," he is to say. "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 highlights his view that the attorney general should serve with "independence" while in office. "That is how it must be," he is to say. Barr does not, in the prepared comments, address his own prior history as attorney general under Bush in dealing with an investigation that included a focus on the president by recommending pardons of key implicated individuals — actions that have come under scrutiny since his nomination by Trump.
What Barr is to say, though, is that Trump "sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind" and that he gave none — "other than that I would run the Department with professionalism and integrity." The comments are notable due to Trump's reported focus on "loyalty" and longstanding anger with Sessions over Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
While pledging independence from Trump, Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe, according to the prepared testimony. Addressing the memo that he wrote, he is to say that it was "narrow in scope," "solely based on public information," and did not address the "core" of the special counsel's investigation into Russia's election interference. As to what it did say, Barr is to note that it only focused on one potential theory for pursuing an obstruction of justice investigation, not others, and did not argue "that a President can never obstruct justice."
Barr also is to note that he has known Mueller for 30 years, that they worked together when Barr was attorney general previously, that they have been friends since then, and that he maintains "confidence" that Mueller will handle his role "properly."
Barr also plans to address questions about any expected report from Mueller. In recent days, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's personal lawyers, has said that he hopes Trump's legal team will get to review and "correct" any report before it is given to Congress or made public.
"I ... believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel’s work," he is to say. "For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. 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."
These statements are not the end of the matter, however, as senators will be able to question Barr further about all of these issues and more.