Senate committee delays vote on Trump’s attorney general pick


The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday postponed a vote on President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, as Democrats expressed concern that he might not make public a final report on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe.

Following Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's comment that the Mueller probe is "close to being completed", former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy said, "I would not be holding my breath".

Democrats have demanded that Whitaker step back from Mueller's continuing investigation because he openly criticized the probe in interviews past year before he joined the Justice Department.

Attorney general nominee William Barr had his committee vote delayed by a week on Tuesday as part of his path toward confirmation.

Whitehouse said lawyers know "there are weasel words that can be put into sentences, and the question of what transparency is "consistent with the law" is a ginormous loophole in his transparency pledge". He criticized the ongoing special counsel investigation against the president for focusing on the obstruction of justice charges.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons of DE said Whitaker's statement that decisions made in the investigation would be reviewed is "chilling", adding he doesn't have confidence that Whitaker will respect the independence of Mueller's probe.

But Barr didn't answer Feinstein's specific questions on whether a president could pardon criminal co-conspirators, offer a pardon in exchange for a witness's agreement not to cooperate with investigators or grant pardons in exchange for bribes. His nomination is likely to be voted out of the Judiciary Committee next week, setting up a confirmation vote on the Senate floor before Presidents' Day on February 18.

Barr was critical of the special counsel in his memo. He said he and Pence have been acquaintances since the spring of 2017 and that Mueller's investigation has been a topic of their "occasional conversations".

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Mueller is required to submit a "confidential" report to the attorney general upon completion of his investigation.

Although Barr appears on track to be confirmed, Democrats want a guarantee that whatever Mueller writes will be public. 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". Whitaker didn't elaborate, but a Justice Department official said later he sought to convey that he'd follow department regulations regarding Mueller's closing documents.

Whitaker decided not to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller's investigation even though a Justice Department ethics official said a formal review would likely recommend a recusal, an agency official has said.

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as well as potential collusion between members of President Donald Trump's campaign and the Kremlin.

He noted that it's department policy "not to criticize individuals for conduct that does not warrant prosecution".

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.

With no charge permitted against the president, Barr seems to indicate that any release of information about Trump from the investigation might be limited.