Harris Presses Attorney General Nominee on Recusal from the Mueller Investigation, Border Security
WASHINGTON, D.C. — At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) questioned the nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, about whether he would follow the recommendation of career Department of Justice ethics officials on recusal from the Special Counsel’s investigation—a practice former Attorney General Sessions abided by during his tenure. In response to Barr’s insistence that he would not recuse himself if he personally disagreed with ethics officials’ recommendation, Harris sought clarification on why precisely he might disregard that guidance:
Harris: Let’s imagine it’s a judgement call and the judgement by the career ethics officials in the agency are that you recuse yourself. Under what scenario would you not follow their recommendation?
Barr: If I disagreed with it.
Harris: And what would the basis of that disagreement be?
Barr: I came to a different judgement.
In response to Harris’ further questioning about border security and drug trafficking, Barr acknowledged that despite President Trump’s demand of a wall, most drugs trafficked into the United States from Mexico come through a port of entry. Harris followed up by asking about Barr’s experience visiting ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border:
Harris: Have you recently or ever visited a point of entry—a port of entry?
Barr: Not recently. I used to spend a lot of time—
Harris: When was the last time?
Barr: Well, when I was Attorney General.
Harris: So a couple decades ago.
Barr: Almost 30 years.
Harris: I’d urge you to visit again if and when you are confirmed. I think you’d see a lot has changed over the years.
In a second round of questioning, Harris secured a commitment from Barr to reconsider the Department of Justice’s current position in support of litigation that, if ultimately successful, would strip health care coverage from millions of Americans and eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Under questioning from Harris, Barr further committed to providing the committee with a list of all consent decrees between the Department of Justice and local governments that were withdrawn under Attorney General Sessions and committed to keeping the committee updated on any consent decrees he would withdraw from if confirmed.
Harris also asked Barr about recent actions President Trump may have taken in violation of the Presidential Records Act:
Harris: In the context of a Washington Post report that the president took possession of an interpreter’s notes documenting the president’s meeting with Russian President Putin in 2017, the question then is, does that violate the Presidential Records Act?
Barr: Your initial assumption, I’m afraid, was wrong. I don’t—I’m not familiar with that Act. At some time I was, but it’s—I really don’t know what it says.
Harris: You don’t know what it says?
Harris: It requires the president to keep documents and not destroy them, essentially.
Barr: At one point I knew what it said, but I’m not familiar with it right now.
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