Trump's pick for Attorney General, William Barr, went before a Senate panel today for the first of two days of confirmation hearings, addressing some of the most controversial questions about his nomination head-on - particularly about the Russian Federation investigation and whether the president would have too much influence on his actions.
Vowing "I will not be bullied", President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general asserted independence from the White House, saying he believed that Russian Federation had tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, that the special counsel investigation shadowing Trump is not a witch hunt and that his predecessor was right to recuse himself from the probe. At the moment, however, nominee William Barr's views on the ongoing Russian Federation investigation are all that seem to matter. Watch the proceedings live, starting at 8:30 a.m. CST.
While Trump often lashes out at Mueller's team on Twitter, Barr said Trump "has sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied, and I have not given him any".
Barr told senators that he and Mueller were close and he wanted Mueller to wrap up his probe at his own pace.
Barr also said "it is vitally important" that Mueller be allowed to complete his investigation and that Congress and the public should learn the results.
President Donald Trump's efforts to exert control over the Justice Department - one of the few bodies left that can assert a real check on his power and corruption - have been an ongoing crisis and scandal during his time in office. "I can't even tell you what it says at this point".
"William Barr, who has wrongfully suggested that LGBTQ people - not Trump and his destructive policies - have harmed the United States, is the latest in a long line of replacements who President Trump has appointed to his Cabinet who are just as anti-LGBTQ as their predecessors", said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD in a statement to Towleroad.
Barr wrote that Trump had full discretion to fire Comey for any reason, a view Democrats said showed he had already opted to side with Trump against Mueller.
Shutdown enters day 23 with no end in sight
But federal employees - those on furlough and those who have remained on the job - still won't be paid until the shutdown ends. President Trump claimed that Democrats said DACA protections were "not worth" giving into Trump's demands for a wall.
Given that Barr has said all this today, it's going to be harder for the Trump White House to contain any potential damage from the outing of the final Mueller report.
The nominee also holds other positions Democrats don't like. "I'm going to do what I think is right".
He said he had written a similar memo criticising the department's corruption case against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, which ended in a mistrial in 2017. In replacing Sessions, Trump's obvious priority was to pick someone who would be in his corner-and if you can't trust the lawyer who wrote the memo arguing it would be a mistake to charge you with obstruction of justice, well, who can you trust?
Mr Barr stopped short of promising to release Mr Mueller's report. After Barr introduced members of his family, many of whom have sought legal careers in public service, Graham jokingly implored Barr's grandson Liam to "consider medical school", because "someone in your family needs to make money".
Barr also sent the memo to White House lawyers and discussed it with Trump's personal attorneys and a lawyer who represents Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, among others.
Will Democrats nail Barr on his Mueller memo? For much of 2018, Trump made no secret of his displeasure with Jeff Sessions for his decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation. He said presidents can not be criminally investigated for actions they are permitted to take under the Constitution, such as firing officials who work for them, just because of a subjective determination that they may have had a corrupt state of mind.
Directly contradicting a claim Trump has made many times, Barr said: "I don't believe Mr Mueller would be involved in a witch-hunt".
Graham also asked if, as commander in chief, Trump has the authority to divert federal funding in order to build a wall along the U.S. -Mexico border.