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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Bill Barr, said on Tuesday that he would not sacrifice the powers of the Attorney General’s office simply to secure his confirmation.
Barr’s comments came after Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono began questioning him about acting AG Matthew Whitaker during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. Hirono asked why Barr wasn’t willing to emulate outgoing AG Jeff Sessions and recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.
“These are not normal times. This is not 27 years ago. Today the president is Donald Trump who will do anything to protect himself,” she said. “He wants you, who has written a manifesto about why the president shouldn’t be prosecuted at least for obstruction of justice, who has met with and consulted with the president’s defense attorneys, who have written op-eds defending his firings of Sally Yates and James Comey, to be his attorney general. So, in this context, just asking us to trust you is not enough.”
“The regulations and the responsibilities of the attorney general as the head of the agency, vest that responsibility in the attorney general, and I am not going to surrender the responsibilities of the attorney general to get the title. I don’t need the title,” he said. “If you don’t, if you don’t trust me to …”
Hirono then interrupted Barr and said he was being repetitious, before accusing him of failing to follow proper ethical guidelines.
“You have, excuse me. You have repeated that answer many, many times. However, I think we all acknowledged that Jeff Sessions possibly didn’t want to recuse himself, but he did,” Hirono shot back. “And so you have it within your power to follow the ethics advice of your own department and you’re telling us you’re not going to. So that is the bottom line.”
“No, senator, I think Jeff Sessions recused himself because of a different provision, which was the political conflict provision,” Barr replied.
Hirono claimed Barr pulled out all the stops to encourage the president to nominate him and accused him of having a political stake in the game.
“In the context of all the things that you have done basically to get the attention of President Trump to nominate you, I would say that there’s a political context to what your decision should be also. Let me move on,” she said.
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