Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing

Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning for his confirmation hearing.

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Barr is expected to face many questions from Democrats about special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE's Russia investigation, which he would oversee should he be confirmed to helm the Justice Department. Barr plans to tell lawmakers that he will allow Mueller to complete his probe unimpeded and will work to make the special counsel's findings public, according to his prepared remarks.

If confirmed, Barr will replace Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSarah Sanders to leave White House Sarah Sanders to leave White House Barr compares his return to DOJ to D-Day invasion MORE, who resigned at Trump's request the day after the November midterm elections. Sessions faced a barrage of criticism from the president over his recusal from the Russia investigation leading up to his resignation.

Barr's confirmation hearing is slated to begin at 9:30 a.m.

Stick with The Hill and bookmark this page for regular updates.

Graham gavels out

6:11 p.m.

After nearly nine hours, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump wishes 'Happy Father's Day to all,' including 'worst and most vicious critics' Trump wishes 'Happy Father's Day to all,' including 'worst and most vicious critics' Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw MORE (R-S.C.) gaveled out of the hearing.

“I really appreciate your time, attention and your patience,” Graham said to Barr.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will return on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. for the second day of questions on Barr’s nomination, hearing testimony from a panel of expert witnesses on the attorney general nominee.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr says LGBTQ discrimination is wrong but calls for religious accommodation

6:05 p.m.

Barr told the panel he is opposed to discrimination against LGTBQ individuals based on their sexual orientation.

“I think that’s wrong,” he said when Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerFox News poll shows Trump trailing Biden, Sanders, other Democrats Fox News poll shows Trump trailing Biden, Sanders, other Democrats Poll: Biden leads, Warren surges in South Carolina MORE (D-N.J.) noted that it is legal in many states for someone to be fired for being gay.

Barr also indicated, however, that it would be up to Congress, rather than the Department of Justice, to ban such discrimination at the federal level. 

“Congress passes a law, the Department of Justice enforces the law,” he said.

Booker also pressed Barr on an article he wrote years ago in which he said the “homosexual movement” is “treated with such solitude while the Catholic population … is given the back of the hand.”

In response, Barr said he is “perfectly fine” with gay marriage and LGBTQ rights but added that he believes there should be “mutual tolerance.”

“I want accommodation to religion,” he said. 

— Michael Burke

Barr suggests no reason to change position that sitting presidents cannot be indicted 

6:00 p.m.

Barr says the position of the executive branch is that a sitting president cannot be indicted — an opinion he said he does not see any “reason to change.”

Initially, when Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pressed Barr if he would approve indicting a sitting president, Barr said he is not going to answer that sort of question off the top of his head.

“Well you know, for forty years the position of the executive branch has been you can’t indict a sitting president,” Barr told Blumenthal.

When pressed further what his views are at this moment, Barr replied: “I actually haven’t read those opinions in a long time, but I see no reason to change them.”

— Olivia Beavers

Barr expresses concerns about sanctuary cities which 'frustrate' federal law enforcement’s efforts

5:46 p.m.

Barr, who says he has concerns about sanctuary cities, said he is "skeptical" about the argument that the federal government doesn’t have the power to push local authorities to turn over illegal aliens that they have apprehended.

“The sanctuary cities problem is a criminal alien problem,” Barr told Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE (R-Tenn.).

“I think a lot of people are under the impression that sanctuary cities are there to protect the illegal aliens that are quietly living as productive members of society and paying their taxes as Sen. Hirono said. It isn’t,” he continued.

The AG nominee described sanctuary cities as entities that want to “frustrate” federal law enforcement’s efforts.

“The problem with sanctuary cities is that it is preventing the federal government from taking custody of criminal aliens and it is a deliberate policy to frustrate the apprehension of those illegal aliens by the federal government,” he continued. 

Barr said states heavily lean on the “commandeering argument,” that federal authorities are trespassing on the state’s authority, which he said he is “personally skeptical” of. 

— Olivia Beavers

Barr says president could pardon himself, but may be 'held accountable'

5:20 p.m. 

Barr said that while the constitution may allow a president to pardon himself or his family members, but that the president may be held accountable for abuse of power for doing so.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Democrat: Trump Mexico tariff threat 'hopefully' a breaking point for GOP MORE (D-Del.) asked Barr if he believed that a president has the ability to pardon himself or family members. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani have both said they believe Trump does have that power, but constitutional experts have said the matter is unclear.

“Yes he does have the power to pardon a family member, but he would then have to face the fact that he could be held accountable for abusing his power,” Barr answered. “Or if it was connected to some act in violating an obstruction statute then it could be obstruction.”

When Coons pressed Barr on how a president could be held accountable, the nominee said that individual could face prosecution if a statute was violated.

But if no laws were broken, Barr said the president would have to be held accountable politically.

Coons also questioned Barr over what he would do if the president attempted to fire federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, who have charged Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen. Trump has been mentioned — but not by name — in court documents in Cohen’s case.

Barr said that he doesn’t believe that firing officials necessarily stops an investigation.

However, he said that “if someone tried to stop a bona fide, lawful investigation to cover up wrongdoing, I would resign.”

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr says US needs ‘effective system’ to keep dangerous firearms away from mentally ill people 

3:45 p.m.

When pressed on the need for gun control, Barr told ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinNew push to regulate self-driving cars faces tough road Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community MORE (D-Calif.) the U.S. needs a system that effectively keeps firearms away from those who are mentally ill.

“I think the problem of our time is to get an effective system in place that can keep dangerous firearms out of the hands of mentally ill people,” Barr said.

“That should be priority number one, and it's going to take some hard work, and we need to get on top of the problem,” he continued, stating that policymakers need to establish agreed upon standards.

His question came after Feinstein highlighted the spiking rates of gun violence while noting that Barr had previously said “gun control is a dead end” in 1994.

“Between 2004 and 2014, there has been 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths. Do you believe that prudent controls on weapons won't reduce violent crime and if so, what is your basis for this conclusion?” Feinstein asked. 

Barr said the matter, which will require attention and resources, will be key to preventing mass shootings.

“We need to really get some energy behind it and get it done. and I also think we need to push along the ERPOs [Extreme Risk Protection Orders] so we have these red flag laws to supplement the use of the background check to find out if someone has a mental disturbance,” he told Feinstein.

“This is the single most important thing I think we can do in the gun control area to stop these massacres from happening in the first place,” he added.

— Olivia Beavers 

Barr says torture isn't lawful, but doesn't say whether waterboarding is torture

3:35 p.m.

Barr said the U.S. should never use torture but added that he'd need to "look at the legal definition" to determine if torture includes waterboarding.

“I’d have to look at the legal definition. Right now, it’s prohibited. So the law has definitively dealt with that,” he said when asked by ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) whether waterboarding is torture.

“I can’t even remember what the old law was that defined torture. I’d have to look at that and then figure out what’s involved in it,” Barr added.

Feinstein also pressed Barr on comments he made during a panel discussion in 2005 when he said there wasn’t anything wrong with “coercive interrogation, applying pain, discomfort and other things to make people talk” as long as it doesn’t “involve the gratuitous barbarity involved in torture.” 

Barr clarified that he believes torture falls under “gratuitous barbarity” and that he doesn’t think torture is ever lawful.

“I don’t think we should ever use torture,” he said.

— Michael Burke

Booker presses Barr on impact of mass incarceration on black Americans

3:05 p.m.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) pushed Barr on the impact of mass incarceration on black Americans after Barr promoted higher incarceration rates during his past term as attorney general.

During a back and forth, Booker highlighted statistics that found that mass incarceration disproportionately impacted black communities.

The Democrat asked Barr, considering that “numerous researchers having found stunning racial disparities rife throughout our system, and in the federal system which you will be the chief law enforcement officer of,” if Barr would commit to a study on racial disparities and impacts that lead to mass incarceration.

The nominee said he would back the study.

Barr also appeared to offer a defense of the practice, saying that “1992 was a different time” and that the crime rate has fallen since then.

Barr had signed off on a 1992 Justice Department report called “The Case for More Incarceration,” as reported by Vox.

“I just want to tell you that I was a young black guy in the 1990s, I was a 20-something-year-old, and experienced a dramatically different justice system and the treatment that I received,” Booker replied.

The senator, considered a potential 2020 presidential candidate, said that he believed Barr’s heart “was in the right place” and that he thought that Barr believed mass incarceration would assist black communities.

“Do you think, just yes or no, that this system of mass incarceration has disproportionately benefited African-American communities?” Booker asked.

“I think that the heavy drug penalties, especially on crack and other things, have harmed the black community, the incarceration rates on the black community,” Barr replied.

— Jacqueline Thomsen 

Barr says he wouldn't go after businesses relying on Obama-era marijuana policy

2:45 p.m.

Barr said he would not go after companies that rely on a previous law enforcement policy discouraging marijuana charges in states where the substance is legal.

Sessions last year rescinded the Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from bringing forward marijuana-related charges in states that had legalized the substance.

However, Barr said Tuesday in response to a question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) that he didn’t believe Sessions had made the right decision in rescinding the so-called Cole memo because it likely disrupted existing industries.

“I’m not going to go after companies that rely on the Cole memorandum,” Barr said.

Barr said that he believes that there should either be a federal law prohibiting marijuana — which he said he supports — or states should be allowed to impose their own regulations.

At least 10 states have legalized recreational marijuana as of 2018, and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) said this week that she will also call for legalized recreational marijuana in her state.

Federal law still completely prohibits marijuana.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr advocates internal discipline approach on leaks following questions on FBI, Trump report

2:35 p.m.

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) questioned Barr about possible leaks to The New York Times following its recent bombshell report that said the FBI began investigating whether Trump — wittingly or unwittingly — was working for Russia, a probe they reportedly started after he fired former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFive memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Under Trump, our democracy is for sale MORE in 2017.

"This counterintelligence investigation that was started by FBI allegedly about President Trump, how did The New York Times get that information?" Kennedy asked.

"I don't know, senator," Barr replied.

"Didn't it have to come from the FBI or Department of Justice?" Kennedy asked in a follow-up question.

"I just can't say. I don't know how they got it, and I don't know whether that's an accurate report," Barr said.

When asked more directly how he plans to address leaks, Barr advocated for a consistent approach in which those who are caught leaking without authorization are punished through the agency's internal disciplinary process.

"The problem of leaks is a difficult one to address. I think the first thing is to make it clear that there's an expectation that there are no leaks and punish people through internal discipline if there are leaks," Barr said. "And make the institutions that are responsible, if you're talking about the FBI, that their leadership is taking aggressive action to stop the leaks."

— Olivia Beavers

Barr says Trump 'absolutely' did not ask him to fire or interfere in Mueller's probe

2:25 p.m

Barr denied that the president has asked him either to fire or interfere with Mueller's investigation.

"I want to try to cut through some of the innuendo here. Did President Trump instruct or ask you once you become attorney general to fire Mr. Mueller?" Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.)  asked.

"Absolutely not," Barr replied.

In a follow-up question, Kennedy also asked Barr whether Trump has asked him to interfere in Mueller's probe, to which he again replied: "Absolutely not."

Barr also dismissed similar questions that the White House has made such requests as well.

— Olivia Beavers

Hirono accuses Barr of following the ‘Whitaker model’ 

1:52 p.m.

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoFemale senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Female senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Trump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation MORE (D-Hawaii) accused Barr of telling senators he will follow the “Whitaker model” on whether he should recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Barr had said earlier that he would seek the advice of career Justice Department ethics officials as to whether he should recuse himself from Mueller’s probe, but he asserted that it is within the attorney general’s responsibilities to make a decision on recusal.

“I will seek the advice of the career ethics personnel, but under the regulations, I make the decision as the head of the agency as to my own recusal,” Barr said earlier.

Hirono said Barr was following the steps of Matthew Whitaker, the current acting attorney general who reportedly did not recuse himself from the probe against the advice of ethics officials.

“In this context, just asking us to trust you is not enough,” Hirono said, suggesting Barr should “take Jeff Sessions’s lead.” 

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr: I would 'not carry out' president's order to fire Mueller if no good cause

1:05 p.m.

Barr assured Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) he would not fire Mueller if the president ordered him to do so without good cause.

Coons tied his question to the Watergate scandal, when the prosecutor investing Watergate resigned instead of following President Nixon's order for him to fire the special counsel investigating the matter.

"Most famously, when directed by President Nixon to fire the special counsel, the prosecutor investigating Watergate, [Elliot] Richardson, refused and resigned instead, as we all know. If those directions were to fire Mueller, would you follow Richardson's example and resign instead?" Coons asked.

"Assuming no good cause," the lawmaker added.

"I would not carry out that instruction," Barr replied.

— Olivia Beavers

Barr calls for 'barrier system' on border

12:50 p.m.

Barr urged Congress to include border security funds in a bill to reopen the government but left the door open to solutions other than the president's proposed border wall.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' MORE (D-Minn.) asked Barr what he would like to say to federal employees currently furloughed or working without pay during the partial government shutdown.

“I would like to see a deal reached whereby Congress recognizes it's imperative to have border security,” Barr said, adding that he would like to see “commonsense barriers.”

When Klobuchar noted that government funding bills from past years have included border security funds, Barr replied that the U.S. needs “money for border security right now.”

He went on to say that could mean steel slats or other barriers, “whatever makes sense in different areas of the border.”

During an earlier exchange with Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles MORE (R-Iowa), Barr had called for a barrier system on the border in order to get control of the border.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr says a president who knowingly destroys or alters evidence is obstructing justice

12:45 p.m 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked Barr if it would be "obstruction" for a U.S. president to "knowingly" destroy or alter evidence linked in a criminal case.

The attorney general nominee responded, "Yes."

The Minnesota lawmaker's line of questioning centered on a memo Barr wrote that touched on what sort of actions he would consider obstruction.

Barr, in response to Klobuchar's questions, replied, that it would be obstruction in scenarios where the president persuaded another person to commit perjury or the president sought to "deliberately" impair the integrity or availability of evidence." 

He also said he would consider it obstruction if a president or any person convinced a witness to change their testimony.

— Olivia Beavers 

Barr says he isn’t ousting Rosenstein

12:23 p.m. 

Barr said he had no plans to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon GOP group urges Republicans to speak out on obstruction claims against Trump in new ad MORE should he be confirmed, saying instead that he had asked Rosenstein to stay on during the leadership transition. He faced questions about Rosenstein's reported imminent departure shortly after the committee reconvened Tuesday afternoon.

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In response to Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  MORE (D-R.I.), Barr said Rosenstein told him he viewed the deputy attorney general position as a “two-year stint” and saw his appointment as an opportunity to leave. But Barr said Rosenstein agreed to stay on for some time when he takes the helm of the Justice Department and that there are no concrete plans for him to depart.

“I have no concrete plans, he has no concrete plans,” Barr said.

— Morgan Chalfant

Barr says he won't be 'bullied' by anyone, including the president

11:10 a.m.

Barr said that he wouldn't allow himself to be influenced or "bullied" by anyone, including Trump.

"I'm not going to do anything that I think was wrong, and I won’t be bullied into doing anything that I think is wrong," Barr said. "Whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the president."

"I’m going to do what I think is right," he added.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (D-Ill.), citing the president's repeated criticism of former Attorney General Jeff Session, had asked Barr why he would want the job if he could be subjected to the same kind of remarks.

"[Sessions] was subjected to unrelenting criticism because he decided ... he had a conflict of interest," Durbin said.

"When you consider this president has lashed out on a personal basis against federal judges who rule against his administration ... when you consider the exit lanes flooded from the White House ... why do you want this job?" the Democrat asked.

Barr said he wanted the job because he "loves the department."

He also referred to the FBI and Department of Justice as "critical institutions that are essential to preserving the rule of law" and the "heartbeat" of U.S. law enforcement.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr: It would be a 'crime' if a president pardoned witness in exchange for their silence

11:00 a.m.

Barr said it would be illegal for a U.S. president to pardon an individual if in exchange they promised not to incriminate the commander in chief once they are forgiven for their offense.

"Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient's promise not incriminate him?" Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (D-Vt.) asked Barr during his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"No, that would be a crime," Barr said.

The pointed question comes at a time when Democrats are warning that Trump could seek to interfere in the ongoing Russia investigation led by Mueller — a probe Barr has vowed he will allow to continue to run its course unhindered.

And Mueller already has a series of cooperating witnesses working with his investigation as he continues to examine ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

— Olivia Beavers 

Barr says Trump won't be allowed to 'correct' Mueller report

10:55 a.m.

Barr told lawmakers that Trump would not be allowed to “correct” Mueller’s final report on his Russia investigation.

“That will not happen,” Barr said when asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to respond to Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s claim that the president’s legal team should be permitted to correct the final report Mueller is expected to submit to the Justice Department at the conclusion of his investigation.

“As a matter of fairness, they should show it to you — so we can correct it if they’re wrong,” Giuliani told The Hill in an exclusive interview last week. “They’re not God, after all. They could be wrong.”

Barr also emphasized that he believes the investigation to be in the public interest.

“I believe the Russians interfered, or attempted to interfere, in the election and I believe we have to get to the bottom of it,” Barr said.

Mueller is widely expected to be in the later stages of his investigation. It will be up to the attorney general to decide whether his final report is released or partially released to Congress and the public.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr says US ambassador asked him about his interest in joining Trump legal team

10:45 a.m.

Barr said he was approached by Dan Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel and a friend of the president, in June 2017 about whether he would be interested in joining the president’s legal team.

The nominee said that after considering his personal and professional obligations at the time, he told Friedman that he was not interested.

Barr said he gave Friedman his phone number, “and never heard from him again.”

That time frame means that Friedman made the ask shortly after he formally took on the ambassadorship.

Feinstein had asked Barr earlier during the hearing if the president attempted to add Barr to his legal team. The nominee said that did not happen.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr says Sessions made 'right' move by recusing himself from Russia probe

10:30 a.m.

Barr told Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that Sessions made the right decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe.

"I'm not sure of all the facts, but I think he probably did the right thing recusing himself," Barr told Graham.

Graham, an ally of Trump's in the upper chamber, agreed.

"I think he did the right thing to recuse himself," Graham replied.

Before Sessions resigned from his post in early November, Trump repeatedly took to publicly attacking him over his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the high-profile probe that has cast a shadow over his administration.

— Olivia Beavers 

Barr: I discussed Mueller with White House, ‘but not in any particular substance’

10:25 a.m.

Barr said that he had talked about the Mueller probe with the White House, but said it was "not in any particular substance."

He offered to go into more detail about the conversation, but Feinstein — who had asked him the question — declined to have him do so at the moment, as her time for questioning had elapsed.

Barr also denied media reports that Trump had sought to add him to his legal team in the Mueller investigation. He said he and Trump had a conversation in June 2017 about the president's legal representation, and that they did not speak again until his nomination as attorney general came up.

— Jacqueline Thomsen 

Barr says Mueller wouldn’t be involved a ‘witch hunt’ 

10:20 a.m.

Barr said that he didn't think Mueller would be involved in a “witch hunt" in response to questions from Graham. 

“I don’t believe that Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Barr said. 

Trump has repeatedly referred to Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow as a “witch hunt.” The president has described the probe as a driven by partisan aims and at some points called it “illegal” and suggested it should be ended.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr promises to look into if FBI probed Trump

10:10 a.m. 

Graham opened up his questioning at the Barr by asking him about a bombshell New York Times report stating that the FBI opened up an investigation into Trump after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The committee chair said that while the Justice Department "should always be on guard about the politician interfering in an investigation," officials should also be concerned about political bias by investigators.

"Would you promise me and this committee to look into this and tell us whether or not ... a counterintelligence investigation was opened up by somebody at the FBI and Department of Justice?" Graham asked, to which Barr said he would.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr confronts Mueller concerns head-on in opening statement 

10:09 a.m. 

Barr used his opening remarks, which were shared in advance of his confirmation hearing, to address questions about how he would oversee the Mueller investigation. 

Barr committed to allowing Mueller, who he described as a colleague and friend, to complete his investigation into Russian election interference and would work to make his findings public. He also asserted that the controversial memo he wrote was “narrow in scope” and did not question Mueller’s core investigation. 

“If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation,” Barr said. “I will follow the special counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work.”

Barr promised to be an independent force atop the Justice Department and said he would not be driven by partisan politics. He also stressed that Trump had not asked him to make any promises beyond serving with professionalism as the attorney general.

“President Trump has sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied, and I have not given him any, other than that I would run the department with professionalism and integrity,” Barr said.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr introduced by former Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award Medal of Freedom to economist Arthur Laffer Trump gambles in push for drug import proposal Biden's role in Anita Hill hearings defended by witness not allowed to testify MORE

9:55 a.m.

Former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced Barr by highlighting his experience in the federal government and private sector, particularly his tenure as President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general during which time Hatch said he earned a reputation as the “law and order attorney general” and a fierce advocate for the Constitution.

“There is no question — none whatsoever — that Bill is well qualified to serve as attorney general,” Hatch, who retired at the end of the last Congress, said.

— Morgan Chalfant

Two female Republican senators serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee

9:52 a.m.

Two female Republican senators are serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time in the history of the panel.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) were both present for Barr's confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Graham and Feinstein welcomed Blackburn and Ernst to the committee in their opening remarks.

“I think it is extraordinarily important that this committee be representative of our society at large — and we are growing that way so thank you very much for being here,” Feinstein said during her opening remarks.

— Olivia Beavers

Feinstein asks Barr is he has 'strength' to stand up to Trump

9:45 a.m.

Feinstein used her opening statement to preview her line of questioning of Barr, saying she had questions over whether he would be willing to stand up to Trump and deflect pressure to open politically motivated investigations.

The California Democrat said that while she was encouraged by Barr saying that he would allow the Mueller investigation to run its course, she still had concerns about a memo he had written claiming the special counsel’s probe could do “lasting damage” to the presidency.

And Feinstein said that she was also worried about Barr’s stance on the sweeping powers of the executive branch, saying he will have to stand up to Trump’s calls into probes into his political opponents, like 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE.

“Do you have that strength and commitment to be independent of the White House pressures that you will undoubtedly face? Will you protect the integrity of the Justice Department above all else?” Feinstein asked.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Graham gavels in

9:40 a.m. 

Graham began his first hearing as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee by recognizing his colleagues and the priorities that they have in the new Congress. Graham described his Democratic counterpart, ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), as a having “a seriousness that the body needs and a demeanor that I think we should all aspire to.”

Graham cheered Trump for nominating Barr as someone with the qualifications and temperament to take on the top job at the Department of Justice at a time of low morale. But he recognized that members of the committee on both sides of the aisle would have questions for the attorney general nominee, particularly on the unsolicited memo Barr wrote to the Trump administration criticizing Mueller’s probe into potential obstruction of justice. 

“There will be a lot of talk about it, as there should be,” Graham said.

— Morgan Chalfant