Whitehouse Releases Written Questions for Barr
Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released his written questions for attorney general nominee William Barr. Following up on his questioning in Barr’s confirmation hearing, Whitehouse pressed Barr to clarify his intent to protect the Special Counsel investigation into Russian election attacks, and to commit to adhering to Justice Department ethics rules guarding against conflicts of interest. Whitehouse’s questions touched on a number of key issues surrounding Barr’s nomination, including:
- Protecting the independence of the U.S. Department of Justice and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Following up on his questioning from Barr’s confirmation hearing, Whitehouse asks the nominee to review the Nixon-era delegation agreement that protected Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski following the Saturday Night Massacre, and then to enumerate the protections from that agreement Barr would not afford Mueller.
- Barr’s June 8 memo regarding special counsel Mueller’s obstruction theory and his May 2017 op-ed defending the firing of FBI Director Comey. Barr has authored a pair of troubling documents questioning the authority of Special Counsel Mueller and defending President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. Whitehouse asks Barr to provide background and key details on the drafting of those pieces, including whether the Trump White House or other Trump allies played a role.
- Recusal and compliance with ethics rules. During his confirmation hearing, Barr refused to commit to following Justice Department ethics officials’ recommendations on potential recusals and other ethical considerations related to conflicts of interest. Whitehouse asks Barr whether he has prejudged key ethical considerations, like whether he should be recused from the Mueller investigation if confirmed. Whitehouse also asks Barr about the potential for officials like Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who has accepted large sums of money funneled through dark money organizations, to shield conflicts of interest from ethics review.
- Proper use of power and executive privilege. Whitehouse, having cited numerous dubious claims of executive privilege by the Trump administration to Congress, asks Barr for an in-depth assessment of the basis and appropriateness of assertions of executive power and the use of executive privilege.
- Federalist Society and potential involvement in judicial selection under Trump. During the Trump administration, many have noted the de facto outsourcing of the judicial nominating process to the conservative Federalist Society, particularly its leader, Leonard Leo. Whitehouse asks Barr to describe his relationship with the Federalist Society and potential involvement in the judicial nominating process.
- Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) duty of candor. According to a former OLC attorney, current OLC attorneys have advanced pretextual arguments to defend Trump policies. Whitehouse asks Barr whether he will commit to be honest with the courts even if the truth does not support the president and his allies’ position
- Responsiveness to congressional oversight requests. Whitehouse asks Barr for steadfast commitments to respond fully and promptly to congressional oversight requests.
Whitehouse also included questions on domestic terrorism, criminal justice, civil rights, religious liberty, and environmental enforcement. The Judiciary Committee has yet to announce a release date for Barr’s answers to members’ questions.
Read Whitehouse’s full questions for Barr here.
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