Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe

Top congressional Democrats, joined by some Republicans, on Friday signaled they will look for assurances from William Barr that he will let special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation continue if he becomes attorney general.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE on Friday named Barr as his pick to fill the top Justice Department spot, a position he also held under former President George H.W. Bush. If confirmed, he would have oversight of Mueller's probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

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Democrats quickly laid out their goalposts for Barr's nomination, including what they expect to hear from him during his confirmation process about Mueller's investigation.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that Barr must, "under oath," pledge that he won't try to interfere in the special counsel investigation, which has been a long-running, frequent punching bag for Trump.

“Given President Trump’s demonstrated lack of regard for the rule of law and the independence of the American justice system, his nominee for attorney general will have a steep hill to climb in order to be confirmed by the Senate," Schumer said in a statement.

In addition to publicly supporting Mueller's probe continuing, Schumer added that "at a minimum" and "under oath before the Senate" Barr also has to pledge to make Mueller's final report available quickly to the public.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will be responsible for helping vet Barr's nomination, quickly echoed Schumer.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions Five takeaways from Mueller's report Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.), who is expected to continue next year as the panel's ranking member, said Barr must "commit" to supporting Mueller's probe "and allowing him to follow the facts."

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Senators press drug industry 'middlemen' over high prices MORE (D-R.I.) said he had questions about "his willingness to defend the department's investigations," and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he would "demand" that Barr give "a firm and specific commitment to protect the Mueller investigation."

"The Senate must closely scrutinize this nominee, particularly in light of past comments suggesting Mr. Barr was more interested in currying favor with President Trump than objectively and thoughtfully analyzing law and facts," Blumenthal added.

Democrats can't block a nomination on their own. With the Senate not expected to take up Barr until next year, when Republicans will have a 53-seat majority, they would need four Republicans as well as every member of their own caucus to oppose him.

But they weren't alone in signaling that Mueller is factoring into their consideration of Barr's nomination.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump MORE (R-Maine) told The Washington Post that she plans to push Barr on Mueller's investigation during the confirmation process, where he'll be meeting with senators as he locks down support.

“That would be one of the issues that I certainly would want to make sure, and that he recognizes that not only that Mr. Mueller has to be allowed to complete his investigation unimpeded, but also that prosecutorial decisions that are made by the department need to be independent,” she said.

And Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranLive coverage: Barr faces Senate panel as he prepares release of Mueller report Hillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — House panel approves bill restoring net neutrality | FTC asks for more help to police tech | Senate panel advances bill targeting illegal robocalls Senate panel advances bill penalizing illegal robocalls MORE (R-Kan.), who oversees Justice Department funding on the Appropriations Committee, said that he expects Barr to let the investigation continue.

"Given the evidence of Russian interference in our elections, I have long supported the special counsel investigation and I expect the nominee to let the investigation continue unimpeded,” Moran said.

Barr has previously criticized the Russia probe, an issue that is guaranteed to come up during his confirmation hearings, including questioning if the Mueller team is biased.

He told The Washington Post last year that he would like to see the probe "have more balance" and separately suggested it was behind the leaks about details of the investigation.

“Leaks by any investigation are deplorable and raise questions as to whether there is an agenda,” Barr told The Hill in June 2017.

He also told The New York Times in November 2017 there is a greater basis for an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump rips Krugman, NYT after columnist writes GOP no longer believes in American values Klobuchar jokes to Cuomo: 'I feel you creeping over my shoulder' but 'not in a Trumpian manner' Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment MORE’s alleged involvement in a uranium deal with Russia than the Mueller probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow’s election interference in 2016.

“To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility,” Barr said of the Justice Department.