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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation continue if he becomes attorney general.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview 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 SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration 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 FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line 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 WhitehouseGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks 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 CollinsGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Congress must step up to protect Medicare home health care 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) MoranSenators optimistic about reaching funding deal GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions 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 ClintonFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Klobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up McCabe's shocking claims prove the bloodless coup rolls on 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.