Senate panel postpones William Barr vote amid Democrats’ concerns

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday postponed a vote on attorney general nominee William Barr amid concerns by Democrats that he might not make public a final report on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who oversees the panel, announced that the vote to send Barr to the full Senate for a confirmation vote would be delayed, along with other nominees being considered by the committee.

The vote will now take place on Feb. 5, according to a Democratic aide.

The delay, which is not unusual, is not expected to affect Barr’s confirmation, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Barr has refused to provide senators any firm guarantee that he will release Mueller’s report to Congress and the public without any redactions.

He told the Senate Judiciary Committee this month that his “goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” but he has hedged on specifics.

Democrats on the committee also failed to secure a firmer promise from President Trump’s nominee to alert them if Justice Department ethics officials advise him to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe.

“Where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and Department policy and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision,” Barr wrote in response to a question from Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California about how he would handle Mueller’s probe.

Last year, Barr wrote a memo in which he argued that in scrutinizing the actions of the Trump campaign, Mueller appeared to be interpreting an obstruction of justice statute too broadly.

Democrats fear the missive was proof that Barr — who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush — might seek to constrain the scope of Mueller’s investigation.

Barr doesn’t need any support from Democrats to be confirmed. Under rules the Democrat-led Senate adopted in 2013, only a simple majority of senators’ votes are required to confirm a cabinet nominee.

But the delayed vote means it will be difficult for the Senate to confirm Barr before acting AG Matthew Whitaker is expected to answer the House Judiciary Committee’s questions about his oversight of the Mueller probe on Feb. 8, the newspaper reported.

On Monday, Whitaker — who oversees the special counsel probe that started in May 2017 — said it is in its last stages.

“Right now the investigation is I think close to being completed,” Whitaker said. “I have been fully briefed on the investigation. I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report.”

Some senators have expressed concern that Trump might fire Mueller for the investigation that the president has repeatedly labeled a “witch hunt.”

Barr told the Senate on Monday that he would rather resign than fire Mueller “without good cause.”

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also introduced legislation Monday that would require a special counsel to send a report directly to Congress.

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