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Mueller probe to play key role in hearing for Trump’s AG nominee

If confirmed, this would be William Barr’s second stint as attorney general. He was previously attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

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Senators will seek reassurances from William Barr that he’ll remain independent as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

William Barr, President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, where he will be grilled on how he’ll oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president’s 2016 campaign.

The two-day confirmation hearings are expected to be contentious. Democrats have signaled that they’ll question Barr over a controversial memo he wrote to last year to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein calling Mueller’s probe “fatally misconceived.”

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In prepared testimony released Monday, Barr pledged to allow Mueller to finish the investigation that Trump regularly derides as a “witch hunt.”

“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,” he wrote. Barr also pledged to be as transparent as he could about the results of the Mueller investigation.

Barr, in his prepared testimony, said his memo did not in any way question “the Special Counsel’s core investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

The hearing comes one day after Barr sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) telling Graham he provided a copy of the Mueller memo to White House counsel Emmet Flood and discussed it with Trump lawyers Jay Sekulow and Marty and Jane Raskin.

Sekulow told POLITICO that he discussed the memo in general terms with Barr but didn’t delve into specifics. Sekulow said he hadn’t seen a copy of the memo and was only aware of it “well after” Barr sent it to the DOJ leadership supervising the Mueller probe.

Although Barr’s statements in his opening remarks may provide relief to some Democrats, others were more skeptical. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the written testimony was “insufficient” and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said she was skeptical of Barr’s assurances in his prepared statement.

“This is what they all say,” Hirono said. “All of these Trump nominees who have expressed very strong opinions…they come before us and say ‘forget everything we did.’”

Trump nominated Barr to replace outgoing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump became frustrated with Sessions after he recused himself from the Russia investigation.

William Barr

If confirmed, this would be Barr’s second stint as attorney general. He was previously attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. Barr is currently an attorney in private practice.

Barr, who has been confirmed unanimously three times by the Senate, is expected to receive strong support from Republicans, who hold a larger majority after the midterm elections.

Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.

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