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Key Senate Democrat says Trump 'should withdraw' attorney general nomination

Sen. Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, told CNN's Manu Raju Thursday that Presi...

Posted: Dec. 20, 2018 10:28 PM
Updated: Dec. 20, 2018 10:28 PM

Sen. Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, told CNN's Manu Raju Thursday that President Donald Trump "should withdraw" his pick to be attorney general, William "Bill" Barr, because of a memo Barr sent to the Department of Justice this summer weighing in on the special counsel investigation.

"I think the President should withdraw this nomination," said Warner. "It appears that the number one qualification Trump is looking for in an AG is someone that will try to undermine the Mueller investigation."

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Warner said that "in effect" Barr's memo was "an attempt to solicit" the nomination, while the special counsel probes whether the President obstructed justice during the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. He called the memo "almost tacky" and "at the very least unseemly."

In June 2018, Barr sent a memo to senior Department of Justice officials, reaching a decisive and controversial conclusion that Trump's interactions with ex-FBI Director James Comey would not constitute obstruction of justice. Trump is expected to formally nominate Barr, who held the position during George H.W. Bush's presidency, next month.

Democrats have objected to the fact that Barr weighed in on such a sensitive issue that he would be poised to oversee. Barr discussed the memo with Trump and told him it would likely come up during his Senate confirmation, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN.

Warner claimed that Barr's actions showed he "desperately" wanted the job and sent the message to the President that "you won't be indicted" and "I'll make sure that we'll keep you away from the arm of the law."

"To me, that is both inappropriate and disqualifying," Warner said.

Barr has not shied away from defending Trump's firing of Comey, but the June 8 memo -- first reported by The Wall Street Journal and provided to lawmakers late Wednesday -- offers a detailed analysis of one of the most consequential episodes of Trump's presidency, concluding that while he's "in the dark about many facts," Mueller's obstruction inquiry was "fatally misconceived." Barr adds that Trump asking Comey to let go of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and later firing Comey were within his powers as head of the executive branch.

Other Democrats have also criticized Barr's memo. On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr should not be nominated to be attorney general.

"Mr. Barr's memo reveals that he is fatally conflicted from being able to oversee the special counsel's investigation," Schumer said.

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