by Sharon Rondeau

(Jan. 15, 2019) — Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham tweeted Tuesday evening that confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee William P. Barr are expected to conclude Wednesday after final witnesses speak on his behalf.

On Tuesday Barr answered questions from members of the committee beginning at approximately 10:00 AM EST and concluding late in the afternoon.

Barr served as Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy in the Reagan administration from May 1982 to September 1983.

Barr served as assistant and deputy attorney general, respectively, acting attorney general, and ultimately, attorney general in the administration of President George H. W. Bush.  Wikipedia reports that his confirmation hearings at that time lasted two days.

On Tuesday Barr answered a variety of questions encompassing his prior service in the position, Justice Department policy then and now, criminal justice reform, the CIA’s use of torture during interrogations of suspected terrorists, federalism, his views on Roe v. Wade, anti-trust law, his faith, and the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible “collusion” on the part of Trump campaign aides.

Barr unabashedly said that he is a proponent of a border wall or barrier to reduce the importation of illegal drugs.

Barr served for 14 years as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of GTE Corporation, which later merged with Bell Atlantic to become Verizon.  Barr spent an additional eight years at the new company, after which he became associated with the Washington, DC-based Kirkland Ellis.

In June of last year, Barr wrote a 19-page memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel making the case that the alleged “obstruction” aspect of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe was misplaced, a subject which arose frequently in Tuesday’s hearing.

Graham conspicuously asked Barr to investigate possible political motivation on the part of FBI and DOJ officials in their respective 2016 investigations of Hillary Clinton and Trump, imploring Barr to “clean up” the Justice Department.  Barr indicated in his opening statement that he did not seek the position and initially suggested that others be approached.  Ultimately, however, Barr said he concluded that he would “like to help” the Justice Department. although not hinting at what he might see as any current deficiencies.

He did say, however, that he would not allowed any “editorial board, Congress or the president” to sway his decision-making.  At 68 and with a full career in both the public and private practice of law behind him, Barr said, he is not concerned with any outside pressures which could come to bear on another candidate.

Barr said he is acquainted with Rosenstein and had lunch with him last year after sending the 19-page memo. He added that Rosenstein did not render an opinion of his own about Barr’s contention that the Mueller probe’s focus on “obstruction” might have been misplaced.

When asked if he had asked Rosenstein to resign, Barr answered in the negative, going as far as to say that rather, he had asked Rosenstein to remain in the position. If Barr is confirmed, indications are that Rosenstein will stay on for several months afterward, Barr said.

After the committee’s hearings conclude, a vote will be taken, with a full vote on the Senate floor to follow, as is customary.  The timeline for confirmation votes

As it did on Tuesday, Wednesday’s confirmation hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. EST.  On Tuesday evening, Graham reportedly said that he expects Barr to “do well” when the Senate votes on his nomination, a date for which is as yet unclear.

If confirmed, Barr will replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump asked to resign the day after the 2018 midterm elections, and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.


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