Senate committee delays vote on Trump's attorney general pick

Minnie Murray
January 30, 2019

While speculation has been widespread that Mueller's probe is nearing an end, Whitaker's comment marks the first time a senior Justice Department official has publicly affirmed it. "I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report".

In both his public testimony and his written answers to senators' questions, Barr has repeatedly refused to give senators any firm guarantee that he will release Mueller's report to Congress and the public free of redactions. Special counsel Robert Mueller was in the midst of his ongoing investigation into whether the president or his associates colluded with any Russian interests during the campaign.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) R.I., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Jeff Sessions, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., October 18, 2017. He took over control overseeing the probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at the president's request in November. He added that he would "follow the special counsel regulations scrupulously" and that his goal "will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law". "I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed through the various means we have ... but right now the investigation is close to being completed and I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible".

On Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., pointed out that if Barr chose to follow department legal guidance that a sitting president could not be indicted - or, by extension, prosecuted - it could keep Trump out of the report entirely, even if Mueller found concerning information about him.

Barr, 68, was attorney general for President George H.W. Bush during the early 1990s. He also pledged to ask Barr whether he would let Trump claim executive privilege to muzzle portions of the report. Barr testified during his confirmation hearing that he believes "it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel's work". What gets released to the public will be nearly entirely up to Barr to decide, should he be confirmed.

But Democrats on the committee expressed concerns they haven't had all their questions answered about his views - so Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), in response, moved to delay the vote.

At Tuesday's hearing, Feinstein said that Barr's indication that he would write a separate report that he would provide to Congress instead of Mueller's report is something "that needs to be fleshed out".

Unless Mueller releases his report in less than two weeks, it seems unlikely that Whitaker will even be involved once the investigation wraps up.

Trump has slammed the Russian Federation investigation as a "witch hunt" and says there was no collusion.

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