Barr: It would be a crime for president to pardon someone in exchange for their silence

Barr: It would be a crime for president to pardon someone in exchange for their silence
© Greg Nash

William Barr, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE's nominee to serve as attorney general, said on Tuesday that it would be illegal for a U.S. president to pardon an individual if that person agreed not to incriminate the commander in chief in a criminal 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 LeahyICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Lawmakers bypass embattled Mulvaney in spending talks MORE (D-Vt.) asked Barr during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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

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The pointed question comes as Democrats warn that President Trump could seek to interfere in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE's Russia investigation — a probe Barr has vowed he will allow to run its course unhindered.

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

They include former Trump campaign aides Michael Flynn, Richard Gates and George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosFeinstein endorses Christy Smith for Katie Hill's former House seat What if impeachment fails? Democrat seeking Katie Hill's former seat nabs endorsement from firefighters association MORE, as well as Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Flynn and Gates have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation and are awaiting sentencing, Papadopoulos served 12 days for lying to investigators about his contacts with Russia-linked officials during the campaign and Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to a bank, a campaign finance violation and lying to Congress.

Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGiuliani draws attention with latest trip to Ukraine GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties GOP fantasies about Ukrainian election 'interference' blow up Trump's impeachment defense MORE, Trump's former campaign chairman, was cooperating with the investigation until Mueller's team recently accused him of lying to them, which Manafort's team denies.

Manafort was convicted of multiple counts of fraud, and then pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges to avoid a second trial. He is also awaiting sentencing.

— This report was updated at 11:51 a.m.