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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 TrumpTrump announces new tranche of endorsements DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food 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 LeahyCOVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama First Black secretary of Senate sworn in Press: The big loser: The Republican Party 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) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened 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 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 ManafortProsecutors drop effort to seize three Manafort properties after Trump pardon FBI offers 0K reward for Russian figure Kilimnik New York court rules Manafort can't be prosecuted by Manhattan DA 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.