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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 TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster 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 LeahySupreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Shelby signals GOP can accept Biden's .5T with more for defense Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 PapadopoulosTrump supporters show up to DC for election protest Trump pardons draw criticism for benefiting political allies Klobuchar: Trump 'trying to burn this country down on his way out' 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 ManafortLegal intrigue swirls over ex-Trump exec Weisselberg: Five key points There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder Treasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence 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.