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William Barr at confirmation hearing: 'I won't be bullied' as U.S. attorney general

By
Nicholas Sakelaris and Clyde Hughes
Attorney General nominee William Barr is sworn-in Tuesday as he prepares testify in front of the Senate judiciary committee on Capitol Hill. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Attorney General nominee William Barr is sworn-in Tuesday as he prepares testify in front of the Senate judiciary committee on Capitol Hill. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- William Barr, the nominee for U.S. attorney general, said at his confirmation hearing Tuesday he'll act independent of President Donald Trump and won't be bullied into doing anything that violates the law.

Under questioning from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Barr said he learned from his first stint as attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration the importance of working with Democrats and Republicans, and standing firm on the rule of law.

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Durbin asked Barr why he would accept the post, given the public criticisms Trump made toward former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"I love the department and all of its components and the FBI," Barr answered. "I think they are critical institutions. They are essential in preserving the rule of law, which is the heartbeat of this country.

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"I feel like I'm in a position in life where I can provide the leadership necessary to protect the independence and reputation of the department and serve in this administration."

Trump criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Justice Department's Russia investigation, and complained about FBI and department actions during the inquiry.

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Barr added that he was at a point of his life that making decisions that may draw the ire of Trump or Congress would not faze him.

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"It may give me pause if I was 45 to 50 years old," Barr said. "It doesn't give me pause right now. I've had a very good life.

"I'm not going to do anything that I think is wrong. I will not be bullied into doing anything that I think is wrong by anybody, whether it be editorial boards, Congress or the president. I'm going to do what I think is right."

Barr appeared to support the Justice Department investigation, now headed by special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he wouldn't interfere and pledging to keep it free of "partisan politics" and "personal interest."

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Trump has often called the investigation a "witch hunt," a phrase Barr pushed back on.

"I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt," he told the committee.

Barr on Monday released a copy of his prepared testimony, which said Mueller should be allowed to complete his work.

"I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision," the testimony said.

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The New York Times reported this week former FBI Director James Comey opened a counterintelligence probe into whether Trump worked for Russia, before he was fired in May 2017. Trump said he never worked for Russia.

Other issues Barr is expected to be asked about include criminal justice policy, immigration and morale at the Justice Department.

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