Senate postpones confirmation vote on attorney general nominee William Barr
The vote to send William Barr’s nomination as attorney general to the floor of the Senate has been delayed by a week after Democrats objected to Barr’s statements concerning special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Barr already served a stint as attorney general under George H. W. Bush, so he might seem one of the safest and least controversial choices made by Donald Trump for a cabinet position. But in his off time, Barr sent an unsolicited letter to the Department of Justice to let them know how strongly he felt that the idea of Trump obstructing justice was an injustice. Then Barr’s initial round of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that he was dedicated both to the idea that Trump could not be indicted, and that anyone not under indictment would, of necessity, need to be edited from any report issued by the special counsel investigation.
When it was all stitched together, Barr seemed to be saying that Trump couldn’t commit obstruction, couldn’t be indicted, and couldn’t even be “criticized” in any report coming out of the Justice Department. It’s the sort of position that might seem off-putting to anyone concerned about Congress’ relative power to practice oversight. However, the Washington Post reports that the delay doesn’t necessarily signal any concern on the part of Republicans on the committee.
Since Republicans have a numerical advantage, a party line vote by the Judiciary Committee would send Barr along to the next step. And even should the committee fail to make that recommendation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still call Trump’s nominee to the floor, where a bare majority would be all that was needed to put him at the spot currently held by acting attorney general and patent scammer Matthew Whitaker. Nothing seems to indicate that Barr is likely to experience any real bump along his path to confirmation.
The Washington Post reports that the vote was originally slated for Tuesday. However, it’s been put off a week after Democrats voiced an objection.
Though his answers in testimony were carefully worded, it’s clear from both his spoken and written responses that Barr absolutely intends to edit any report that emerges from Robert Mueller’s office. That information will be cleaned up to not include any information about anyone not under indictment, and since Barr does not believe that Trump could be indicted for any crime, that means any mention of his actions—even if those mentions are not necessarily accusations of criminal behavior—would have to be removed before the report could be sent to Congress. Barr has also made it clear that while he will listen to the advice of the Justice Department’s ethics advisers, he is not promising to follow that advice on either the need to recuse himself or the release of the final report.
Barr’s statements, together with the statements from acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, make it clear: No matter who is in charge at the Trump Justice Department, the public is not going to be allowed to see the unredacted Mueller report.