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William Barr, U.S. Attorney General Nominee Grilled On Russia Probe

The nominee criticized so-called "sanctuary cities" that do not notify federal officials about undocumented immigrants who are taken into custody.

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USA, Attorney General
Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, William Barr, goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee again Wednesday, after pledging in his first day of confirmation hearings to shield the special counsel’s Russia probe from political pressure.

In his initial appearance before the panel, Barr also took issue with Trump’s labeling the investigation of his inner circle’s contacts with Moscow as a “witch hunt.”

“I don’t believe (special counsel Robert) Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Barr said, adding that he intends to let the probe run its course and that the results should be made known to the public and Congress.

Barr said the special counsel could only be terminated for good cause and that “it’s unimaginable” that Mueller would “ever do anything that gave rise to good cause.”

Democrats repeatedly stressed the importance of independence to the role of attorney general and noted Trump’s penchant for lashing out at the Justice Department.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., accompanied by Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,(R) questions Attorney General nominee William Barr during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

“I believe it is important that the next attorney general be able to strongly resist pressure, whether from the administration or Congress,” California Democrat Dianne Feinstein said. “He must have the integrity, the strength and the fortitude to tell the president ‘no’ regardless of the consequences.”

“If confirmed, the president is going to expect you to his bidding. I can almost guarantee he’ll cross the line at some point,” Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said.

“I can truly be independent,” Barr insisted. “I’m in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences … I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong.”

Barr’s memo

Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H. W. Bush, has drawn scrutiny for a memo he wrote last year criticizing special counsel Mueller for examining whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation by firing then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017.

USA, Attorney General
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference to announce a criminal law enforcement action involving China, at the Department of Justice in Washington, Nov. 1, 2018. VOA

In a memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, Barr opined that probing Trump’s actions toward Comey was “fatally misconceived” and “grossly irresponsible.”

The memo, written last June, came to light after Trump nominated Barr, 68, to succeed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump ousted over his recusal from oversight of the Russia investigation. The document sparked widespread concern among minority Democrats in the Senate, who have long feared Trump intends to shut down the probe.

At the confirmation hearing, Barr argued his memo was “narrow in scope” and did not address the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and other “potential obstruction-of-justice theories.”

Later in the hearing, Barr said, “I think Russians attempted to interfere with the [2016] election, and I think we have to get to the bottom of it.”

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Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

Republicans also sought assurances from the nominee. The committee’s new chairman, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, expressed outrage over extensive communications between two FBI agents during the 2016 presidential campaign that showed extreme bias and prejudice against Trump.

“We’re relying on you to clean this place up,” Graham said of the Justice Department.

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.

“Without looking at the statute, I really couldn’t answer that,” Barr replied.

Also Read: “I Never Worked For Russia”, Says US President Donald Trump

The nominee criticized so-called “sanctuary cities” that do not notify federal officials about undocumented immigrants who are taken into custody. He also weighed in on the current standoff between the White House and congressional Democrats over border wall funding.

“I would like to see a deal reached whereby Congress recognizes that it’s imperative to have border security, and that part of that border security, as a commonsense matter, needs barriers,” Barr said. (VOA)

Next Story

Donald Trump to Declare ‘Emergency’, Use Military Funds for Mexico Border Wall

He will sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown, but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

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Donald Trump
R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills blasted Carpe Donktum and Trump on Saturday. Pixabay

US President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency to fund his planned border wall with Mexico, the White House has said.

He will sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown, but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”, the BBC reported on Friday.

The Congress passed the bill on Thursday which does not meet Trump’s demands for wall funding. It now has to be signed by the President to become law.

 

Donald Trump, Mexico
Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”. VOA

The compromise legislation passed by Congress includes $1.3 billion in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards the border wall for which Trump had wanted $5.7 billion.

“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.

She added he would “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, however, Republican leader Mitch McConnell indicated his support for the move, saying the President was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”.

In a 83-16 vote, the Senate on Thursday passed the border security bill. The House of Representatives later also backed the measure, by 300 to 128.

 

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“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. VOA

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already suggested a legal challenge from Democrats should the President make an emergency declaration.

She and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also issued a joint statement condemning the move.

 

ALSO READ: Mexico Announced to Relocate Central American Migrants, 4 People Injured

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” they said.

Republicans fear this will set a precedent for presidential power that Democrats can someday use to circumvent the will of Congress. (IANS)