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Attorney General Nominee Answers Questions at Confirmation Hearing

President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general says he doesn't believe special counsel Robert Mueller "would be involved in a witch hunt."

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 7:30 AM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 9:08 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr (all times local):

11:35 a.m.

Attorney general nominee William Barr says he turned down joining President Donald Trump's defense team in the Russia investigation.

Barr says he personally told Trump he couldn't represent him and spoke up for special counsel Robert Mueller's (MUHL'-urz) integrity. Barr says he told the president that Mueller is a "straight shooter and should be treated as such."

Barr said at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he took the meeting with the president after he was approached in June 2017 by the U.S. ambassador to Israel about helping Trump's legal team.

Barr detailed his conversations with Trump during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. Trump has called the Russia probe a "witch hunt."

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11:25 a.m.

Attorney general nominee William Barr says former FBI Director James Comey made the wrong decision by holding a news conference announcing he wasn't recommending charges in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Barr made the comment during his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Barr says if authorities aren't going to bring charges, then there should not be a news conference to detail derogatory information uncovered during the probe. Comey has defended his decision.

Comey's firing is part of special counsel Robert Mueller's (MUHL'-urz) investigation, which also is examining whether President Donald Trump or anyone in his inner circle obstructed justice.

Trump cited Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation as one of the reasons for Comey's firing, though he later suggested the Russia investigation was a factor.

Trump nominated Barr, who served under President George H.W. Bush.

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11:05 a.m.

Attorney general nominee William Barr says he would seek the advice of career Justice Department ethics officials about whether he should recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's (MUHL'-urz) Russia investigation.

Barr said during his confirmation hearing Tuesday that under department guidelines he would have to make the decision about whether to recuse himself. He says he would "make a decision on good faith based on the laws and the facts."

Barr was nominated by President Donald Trump.

If confirmed, Barr would replace acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who declined to recuse himself from the investigation. Whitaker chose not to recuse himself despite the advice of a Justice Department ethics official.

Democrats called for Whitaker's recusal given his past critical comments on the probe.

Trump complained his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was insufficiently loyal because he recused himself.

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10:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general says it would be an "abuse of power" for Trump to intervene in an investigation he "has a stake in."

William Barr said Tuesday at his confirmation hearing he believes such an action would be a breach of the president's constitutional duties and could violate federal law depending upon the circumstances.

Barr was responding to questions from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (FYN'-styn), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in light of a memo he wrote criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller's (MUHL'-urz) obstruction-of-justice investigation.

Barr has said the memo was intended to be narrowly focused on one of Mueller's reported interpretations of obstruction. Barr also says his memo was based solely on public reporting and not any confidential information.

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10:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general says he doesn't believe special counsel Robert Mueller "would be involved in a witch hunt."

Barr made the comment Tuesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Trump has repeatedly decried the special counsel's investigation as a "witch hunt" and has suggested he is being targeted by the Justice Department.

Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

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10:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump's pick to be attorney general says he will look into how an FBI counterintelligence investigation was opened into whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia's interests.

Attorney general nominee William Barr says he has never heard of the FBI opening such an investigation on an American president. Barr was responding to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday.

The South Carolina Republican asked Barr about a report by The New York Times revealing that the counterintelligence investigation was opened in the days after Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Barr is making the comments during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Trump has denied working for Russia.

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10 a.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee says attorney general nominee William Barr's unsolicited memo criticizing the Russia investigation showed a "determined effort to undermine Bob Mueller."

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday she's also troubled by Barr's expansive view of presidential powers since he will be overseeing the special counsel's investigation into whether President Donald Trump or his associates coordinated with Russian election interference.

Feinstein made the comments during the opening of Barr's confirmation hearing.

Barr has defended the memo. He says it was narrowly focused on a single theory of obstruction and didn't touch the broader questions surrounding Russian election interference.

Barr revealed Monday that he had sent the memo to White House lawyers and lawyers for Trump.

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12:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee will have to navigate his confirmation hearing skillfully.

William Barr will need to emphasize on Tuesday that he supports Trump's policies while assuring Democrats he will act independently and won't interfere with the special counsel's Russia investigation.

The 68-year-old will face questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about his relationship with Trump and his views on executive power.

According to prepared remarks already released, Barr plans to tell senators that "it is vitally important" for Mueller to complete the investigation. Democrats have raised concerns about comments Barr has made about Mueller's probe.

Last year, Barr sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department criticizing Mueller's inquiry into whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.

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