tv CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto CNN January 15, 2019 6:00am-7:00am PST
all right. top of the hour. good morning, everyone. i'm poppy harlow. >> i'm jim sciutto. we are ready for the first confirmation hearing of the new congress. keep this in mind. president trump fired his previous attorney general jeff sessions for failing to reign in the mueller probe and is likely replacing him with someone who called that investigation fatally misconceived. william barr is up for his second stint as attorney general. he spent two years as ag under the first president bush. this time he'll take the helm of a justice department in fact investigating the man who nominated him.
he has attacked the probe as recently as last summer. >> about six months ago. in his opening statement to the senate judiciary committee this morning, you will hear it at the bottom of the hour, barr will pledge, bob mueller will be allowed to complete his work. moreover, it is very important that the public and congress be informed of the results of the special counsel's work. you can bet he'll be hammered on word choice there. what does he mean? is the public going to see the report or just be told what's in it? you can expect democrats to press hard on that. we are surrounded by a-list colleagues. what else as we count down to the opening gavel? we begin with laura jarrett on his background. this is an toeattorney general h a lot of experience with a particular world view and a particularly important legal view as it pertains to this president. >> that's right. the big takeaway is bill barr doesn't just see himself as serving at the pleasure of the president. he sees himself as the
president's lawyer. he has such an expansive view of executive power that the way it intersects with the russia investigation given that the president's campaign is under investigation still, given that the president is under investigation for obstruction of justice is the real thing democrats will hone in on today. yesterday he released a portion of what he plans to say to try to get ahead of all of this. i want to zero in on one part where he talks about how important it is for the public to be informed of the results of the investigation. doesn't say he's going to make the whole report open to the public. he says, i can assure you where judgments are to be made by me. that's important and a subtle distinction. he's saying what if the president has a judgment. i think democrats will be pressing there. where are the limits? what happens when someone else wants to substitute their judgment? >> the issue of executive power came up in his last confirmation hearings some nearly 30 years ago. again he was asked at the time about this very expansive view.
the pictures we showed a moment ago are live pictures of the nominee william barr arriving there. i want to bring in manu raju on capitol hill. the key is republicans in the larger senate here. is there any wobbling of support among republicans? the president has a majority in the senate. do you see that from your perch? >> not at this point. that's what democrats hope today's hearing may lead to. they believe if william barr does not give any sort of ironclad commitments for the mueller probe, maybe there are questions about his independence from the president and if he does not agree to potentially even recuse himself in certain situations, democrats hope that perhaps they can convince some republicans to defect and vote against william barr's nomination. of course there is no evidence that it will happen yet. that's why a huge focus among the democrats on this committee today will be focusing on the
mueller investigation. will he allow the president for instance to be subpoenaed if necessary by the mueller investigation? would he step aside if the ethics attorneys say he should, in fact, do so. what about the conversations that he had with the president and the president's legal team whose memo -- barr distributed his memo criticizing the oh instruction element of the probe. what conversations did he have with the president's legal team up to this? if republicans believe he's evasive that could perhaps affect his votes in the larger senate. his prospects hinge on his performance today. also, it will be interesting to watch on this committee some potential 2020 contenders themselves having their turn in the spotlight. harris, booker as well as the chair of man of the committee lindsey graham who is holding the gavel on this committee and
two female republican senators joining the panel. joanie ernst and marcia blackburn. whether he can shore up republican support in particular. >> all four of the voices were strong ones during the kavanaugh hearings. you can expect similar today. thank you very much. forgive us. there is a lot of news every day. do not miss the significance of this story. this morning the "new york times" reporting that president trump considered pulling the u.s. out of the nato alliance. you cannot underestimate the importance not just of this prospect but the discussion of the prospect in light of the threat russia currently poses to europe and the united states. >> and in light of what russia did to our election. the u.s. withdrawal, if that were to actually happen -- just sit with it for a moment. it would weaken a key alliance. it is a huge gift to vladimir putin. barbara starr joins us now.
when you talk about a gift to vladimir putin, retired admiral of nato quoted in the "new york times" saying even discussing this, even discussing leaving nato let alone doing it, just talking about it is the gift of the century in his words, for vladimir putin. >> good morning. i think that's probably something that a lot of military commanders and top pentagon officials are concerned about at this point. look, vladimir putin, the intelligence community will tell you, is not giving up on his own agenda on the national security stage. he would like nothing better than to drive a wedge between the u.s. and nato, see nato break apart in some fashion. president trump may be playing right into that putin agenda. the president has talked repeatedly, we all know, about his concerns about nato that he doesn't think they are paying their fair share in his view, questioning nato. but this time it comes against
the backdrop of the russian agenda. putin not pulling back, the president again publicly apparently talking about the potential for leaving nato. so where does that leave the alliance? what it would mean if it were to come to pass, if congress could not stop it or did not want to stop it, it means that you break apart the fundamental security structure that's existed since the end of world war ii that the u.s. no longer has the pledge under nato to come to the defense of europe and canada, the nato partners if they are attacked. it has been since world war ii an attack on one is an attack on all. we saw that after 9/11. so right now a lot of concern because when the president raises something it may go away for a while, but he always brings it back. there is concern this is another idea he'll bring back. >> all right, barbara starr, important reporting. huge story this morning not to be missed. >> the issue of the day is the barr hearings.
we'll discuss it with our all-star panel. jeffrey toobin, in advance of the hearing bill barr said he wants at least the results of the investigation made public, whether that's the full report we don't know. and that mueller should be allowed to finish his work. reconcile that with his prior public statements criticizing essential parts of the probe. >> what you will hear a lot from mr. barr today is his 19-page memo was about one narrow issue. it was about whether the president can be investigated and prosecuted for obstruction of justice for firing james comey. >> that's quite a significant part of the investigation. >> it is a significant part of the investigation. but it is not the russia part of the investigation. the interesting line he will attempt to draw is, well, i thought as a private citizen but that doesn't mean i will interfere with the
investigation. he's going to do what he's going to do. whether he can maintain both positions, i thought it as a private citizen, but i'm not going to interfere, that's one of the challenges he faces. >> so the natural follow up to that for the lawmakers would be, okay, the words you used in the memo that you just wanted to write, by the way. no one compelled you to write this at the department of justice six months ago or so are asinine, a sideshow, grossly irresponsible. if you felt that about obstruction then, are you saying you don't feel it now? isn't he going to have to answer that? you may say you won't interfere, but do you still feel that way? >> that's why you do what you do. you ask good questions. i don't know what he'll say. >> you know, look, i think it is important to remember there are 53 republicans in the senate. he's going to get confirmed. but how much he has to dance during this hearing will be interesting. fortunately the senators aren't as good questioners as poppy
harlow. >> mom, i hope you're watching. >> laura jarrett and pamela, i would like your thoughts on this. how much leeway does the attorney general to set guardrails for the special counsel's investigation, short of firing robert mueller which he says he's not going to do. where can he make judgments to rein it in? >> on a subpoena. >> to the president. >> on a subpoena, on the purse strings. the whole point of setting up this particular regulation was in response to independent counsel and the idea was to put in guardrails so the counsel was answerable to the attorney general, not just on his own. in this case, in particular not just as the everyday aspects of it but when it comes to what happens with the report. that's the sole decision cessis confirmed, in bill barr's hands. he can make sure things are
redacted, get a summary. that's up to him. it's why it is critical, i think, to test where the boundaries are. >> you can see one of the washington documents with a lot of black lines through it. >> totally. >> pamela, similar thoughts? >> absolutely. that's the big question. a couple of things, as you point out, the subpoena. our latest reporting is in recent weeks robert mueller went to trump's legal team, asked to talk with the president in person to ask follow up questions in addition to written questions and the trump legal team rebuffed him. the question is what would bill barr do if robert mueller wants to subpoena the president for an interview. you can expect that to be raised today. also the report as you pointed out, the big question is what is he going to do. the way he put it in the opening statement was lawyerly. he said, i will make sure the results are transparent. does that mean the president won't be charged and that's the thing that will be out there? if you look at the regulations, correct me if i'm wrong, but there is nothing specific in
there that the report has to be handed over to congress or to the public. he made clear in his opening statement he's going to follow the law. so i think you're really going to see democrats in particular pick it apart. >> mark preston, to you. in this letter he wrote to dianne feinstein, the ranking democrat and republican senator lindsey graham. we saw the letter yesterday. in it, he discusses how when he wrote the memo in june he sent it to the white house. he had discussions about it with the president's own lawyers back then. subsequently has discussed it with the president when he was tapped for this. that's a big deal, is it not? >> it comes back to the tap dancing jeffrey talked about. he'll go in and we should point out he's been through these hearings before. he's an old washington hand. he knows how to answer questions and how not to answer questions. your point, poppy, and this is a line out of the cnn.com story
talking about the hearing today. i do think democrats, if they are successful in anything in dinging him up, it would be on this alone. president trump's interactions with ex-fbi director james comey would not constitute obstruction of justice because the president has plenary power over law enforcement and, quote/unquote, complete authority to stop or start a law enforcement proceeding. that's amazing. that goes back to basically saying the president has become a king and -- >> that's a quote of barr's? >> yeah, from his memo. if you go back and talk about the president's backers, they always talk about the constitution and say we are constitutionalists. pretty sure the founding fathers didn't want the president of the united states to have absolute power which is what barr was saying. >> if i could just emphasize the point you are making here, if you believe the president can open or close any criminal investigation, fire the fbi
director for any reason, does that mean if someone walks into the oval office and says, here's a suitcase full of cash, fire the fbi director, and you can keep the cash. is that constitutional? i don't think that's what -- if you believe literally what barr is saying there, he's saying that's true. >> it's a larger question. watergate essentially settled the question. the president wasn't above the law. >> right. i think just in talking to friends of bill barr, what i'm hearing from them and what you are likely to hear today is that he will make clear that while he thinks the president has wide latitude, he doesn't believe the president is above the law and he thinks the president can obstruct justice just not in this particular example of firing the fbi director. >> all right. stay with us. >> there is a lot to discuss there and we are going to keep discussing it. >> stay with us. we're on top of a lot this morning. of course the high stakes hearing is about to begin. stay with us for that. >> remember this story in
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all right. you are looking at live pictures of capitol hill. you see some members of the senate judiciary committee. senator john kennedy right there. they are getting ready for the significant hearing to begin in about ten minutes. the confirmation hearing of the president's pick for attorney general, william barr. >> that was a young member of the senate judiciary committee there, looked 9 or 10. i assume that's a relative of the senator or there are changes we are not aware of. >> yeah. >> another story, day 25 of the partial government shutdown. president trump hoping to break his stalemate with house speaker nancy pelosi by appealing to
moderate house democrats. now live from capitol hill, phil mattingly. president trump hoping to peel off some support. is he finding interest? >> reporter: first off does that young member have any ideas to end the shutdown? there are about 535 members of congress who would be interested in ideas to end the shutdown. what you are hearing from the white house now is they are deployed a strategy you have seen in the past from administrations. go after vulnerable members, particularly those who won in districts president trump won in 2016 that might be frustrated, worried about their political future and might be on the table to pull to your side. that's what the white house will do. they sent out inveigh tags vita groups of the problem solver caucus, the blue dogs caucus to discuss border security. i have been talking to democratic aides the last 24 hours or so to ask if you have
seen movement, do you feel there is an opening for the white house and the answer is no. leaders say, go ahead, have the meeting. their view is at this moment there has been no daylight. there is no daylight between democrats in the senate, democrats in the house. you have seen leadership stick together in both chambers as well. they feel confident by where they are standing because the threshold is this. democrats say we are happy to discuss border security, have to re-open the government first. it is the government closure that freshman democrats who came to get things done are frustrated about. not necessarily the wall or border security. this is happening as senate democrats and republicans, rank and file guys, are trying to meet to shake something loose. i'm told a meeting that took place last night, more than a dozen senators, lindsey graham, happened in joe manchin's basement hide away. i'm told it was not a good meeting. serious senators trying to figure out proposals, but leadership dug in. democrats unable to figure out what the president would agree to. the government remaining closed.
rank and file efforts, so far are not bearing fruit and aren't likely to in the near future. >> i was thinking about walking through the tsa line coming here. so thankful for them. they are going to work, doing their job, not getting paid so we can go where we need to go while washington just can't figure it out. >> members of the coast guard, too. >> thank you very much. rare bipartisan moment in washington as congressman steve king of iowa rebuked publicly and removed from his assigned committees. the house could vote as early as today on a disapproval resolution against him. >> the condemnation comes after king made overtly racist remarks he says were misunderstood. joining us now, congressional reporter lauren fox. amazingly, still no apology from king for this. trying to find a way to defend himself even as the republican party comes down hard on him. >> reporter: that's right. we are outside of steve king's office this morning, jim. no sign of the congressman at
this point. we should say republicans widely disapprove of these comments. we have statements coming from majority leader mitch mcconnell in the senate, the other side of the capitol saying there is no place in the republican party for steve king's comments. he's not the only one. mitt romney saying that the congressman should step aside and chris stewart, a congressman from utah saying last night at this point without any of the committee assignments, the bread and butter of a republican member of congress, how you prove to constituents back home you are getting work done. without those committee assignments chris stewart said this about what steve king's next steps should be. >> i wish he'd resign, frankly. he can't do the work. he's lost the trust and faith of his comrades. for the good of the party and the american people, i think it is time for us to make a change. >> reporter: steve king today defiant, putting out a statement last night saying he thinks the decision not to seat him on any
of his committees was a political one. we'll be standing outside his office hoping the congressman comes by so we can get more reaction from him today. >> pretty remarkable to see members of his party asking for him to resign. and we have seen it from more than one. >> can i say one thing about steve king? let's remember that steve king was chairman of the subcommittee on the constitution just a few weeks ago. so the idea that the republicans have suddenly discovered he holds these horrible views -- >> that's a fair point. he's made comments in this category before. thank you very much to lauren fox on the hill. moments from now, high stakes showdown on capitol hill. senate judiciary committee preparing to grill bill barr, president trump's nominee for attorney general. the hearings begin live in moments. >> we are also minutes away from the opening bell on wall street. stocks set to rise. all eyes are on the uk. today is a decision day, a
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welcome back. live pictures of orin hatch entering the room. recently retired. this is the first confirmation hearing he has not been involved with in some time. there is william barr, the president's pick for attorney general ready to face hard questions from democrats certainly, supportive statements from republicans here i would imagine. look at the list of folks who will be involved.
three likely presidential candidates in 2020, cory booker, kamala harris, amy klobuchar and lindsey graham, not someone known to stay quiet in events like this. >> well put, my friend. orin hatch will give the opening remarks here. served for a long time on the committee. as we wait for them to gavel in, when bill barr went through this years ago he was actually very candid and honest on at least one answer on roe v. wade. will we see that candor today? >> that's a big question. what is he willing to be transparent about and what repercussions does it have for him? the numbers are in his favor. many people expect he'll get confirmed barring any crazy things or unforeseen that we don't see here. obviously on roe v. wade he predicted that it will get overturned eventually saying it doesn't have any constitutional underpinnings, in his view. there is also immigration, criminal justice reform
something people like senator grassley, a republican cares deeply about. there are issues where there could be sticking points for some republicans, but he'll probably still be confirmed. >> and on ongoing investigation of this president. is william barr going to give confidence to democrats about the future, mark preston? >> no. even if they did privately hold it, they certainly won't publicly show it because that won't work well for the politics of the situation we are in now. quite frankly as we look at congress, the minority has a lot of power that we don't see on the house side. senate democrats have to show that their oversight power means something because if you look at what we are going to come out of the gate with the house democrats now, senate democrats have to show at least their voters and supporters that they are willing to ask the hard questions. >> we look at lindsey graham, the new chair, sitting there alongside the former chair chuck
grassly. pamela brown, the memo said a key part of the mueller probe is misguided. what's your reporting on that? >> this will be brought up during the hearing. we have now learned he didn't just share the memo saying that the obstruction probe firing james comey was fatally misconceived i believe is what he said. he didn't just share it with top doj officials. he shared it with white house lawyers. >> there we go. chairman gaveling it in. let's listen. >> thank you all. happy new year. a new congress and we'll see how this goes. recognize senator grassley. >> okay. i do this with a point of personal privilege, mr. chairman. i appreciate the courtesy of you
and the members. this is the first meeting of the senate judiciary committee in this 116th congress. it's also the first time that we convened while my friend lindsey graham holds the gavel and will proceed to be chairman. so i would like to congratulate the new chairman, thank him for his leadership, and say that i look forward to working with you and other members of the committee as we seek to address some of our nation's most pressing problems. i have every confidence that you'll steer our 200-year-old committee in the right direction. >> thank you. i really appreciate that. in my view, nobody looks over a hundred. so we are actually aging well as a committee. the bottom line is how do you get this job? your colleagues have to vote for you. thank you. you have to get re-elected and outlive the person to your right. i have been able to do that.
i look forward to working with senator feinstein who i have a lot of affection and fondness for. to me she represents a seriousness that the body needs and a demeanor that i think we should all aspire to. to the new colleagues, senator holly, blackburn and ernst, thank you for being part of this committee. to senator blackburn and ernst, thank you for making history on our side. as to the hopes and dreams for this committee, to get as much done as possible and to fight when we have to over things that matter to the public and show two different views of an issue that's important but do it as respectfully as possible. sentencing reform, criminal justice reform was a very big deal. this committee delivered for the
country. senator durbin, thank you very much for working with senator lee and senator grassley and senator booker. that's a big deal that's going to change lives, i think, in a positive way. so this committee has within it the ability to do big things long overdue. i know senator blackburn wants to do something on social media. senator klobuchar has ideas if you put an ad on social media you have to stand by it. we are all worried about the social media platforms being hijacked by terrorists and bad actors throughout the world. we are worried about privacy. do you know what you are signing up for when you get on these platforms? working with commerce to see if we can find a way to tame the wild west. intellectual property, senator tillis and senator ckuhns have ideas i look forward to hearing about. you have a package of ethics reforms and i look forward to
working with you there on this side. i know there are a lot of ideas that i'm sure if we sat down and talked we could embrace. i look forward to solving as many problems as we can and having a contest over ideas that are important to the american people. senator hatch, thank you for coming. in terms of my chairmanship, if i can do what you and senator grassley were able to do during your time, i will have done the committee a good service. senator grassley, thank you very much. last year was tough. i think you and senator feinstein did the best you could in the environment in which we live. the times in which we live are very difficult times. i don't see them getting better overnight. but i do see them getting better if we all want them to. so about me, i want us to do better and i will be as measured as possible.
the immigration lindsey will show up. the other guy is there, too. i don't like him any more than you do. so the bottom line is we are starting off with something that would be good for the country. we have a vacancy for the attorney general spot. we have a chance to fill that vacancy. mr. barr, you can't hold a job. when you look at what he's done in his life, it's incredible. i want to thank the president for nominating somebody who is worthy of the job who will understand on day one what the job is about and can right the ship over there. i think we all have concerns. i know senator whitehouse is passionate about cyber security and other ideas that sheldon has been pushing. it's just a matter of time before we hit hard if somebody
doesn't step up with solutions. but a little bit about the nominee. he's been attorney general before, from 1991 to 1993 by voice vote. those were the days. deputy attorney general from 1990 to 1991, unanimous consent without a recorded vote. assistant attorney general, office of legal counsel, voice vote. that's pretty amazing. i think you're going to have an actual vote this time. academically gifted, george washington law school, columbia university undergraduate. outside of doj he was the general counsel legislative counsel for the cia. that's how he met bush 41. he's been a law clerk. he's worked in private practice. i'm not going to bore the committee with all the things he's done. he's been the senior vice president general counsel of gte. he's lived a consequential life.
general counsel for verizon. he liveed a life that i think has been honorable and note-worthy and accomplished. i want to thank you for being willing to take this task on. we have a lot of problems at the department of justice. i think morale is low and we need to change that. i look forward to this hearing. you will be challenged. you should be challenged. the memo, there will be a lot of talk about it, as there should be. i just want to let you know, mr. barr, that we appreciate you stepping up at a time when the country needs somebody of your background and temperament to be in charge of the rule of law. with that, i will turn it over to my colleague senator feinstein. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i want you to know i really look forward to working with you and i think we can work productively
together. senator grassley, i want to thank you for the time we worked together. it really was a pleasure and i had an opportunity to get to know you as the fine person that you are. so thank you very much. i want to say just one word or two or three about women. 25 years ago there were no women on this committee. i will never forget watching the anita hill hearing on the television in the london airport with a lot of people gathered around. i went over to take a look and i saw this all-male judiciary committee. it took all these years, but here we are. i want to particularly welcome senator ernst and senator blackburn. i think it is extraordinarily important that this committee be representative of our society at large. we are growing that way.
so thank you very much for being here. i would also like to welcome bill barr and his family. i know you're proud to be here and you served as attorney general before from 1991 to '93. i think we all have great respect for your commitment to public service. when we met, your previous tenure marked a very -- we talked about a very different time for our country. today, we find ourselves in a unique time with a different administration and different challenges. now perhaps more than ever before, the country needs someone who will uphold the rule of law, defend the independence of the justice department, and truly understand their job is to serve as the people's lawyer, not the president's lawyer. top of mind for all of us is the ongoing mueller investigation.
importantly the attorney general must be willing to resist political pressure and be committed to protecting this investigation. i'm pleased that in our private meeting as well as in your written statement submitted to the committee you stated that it is vitally important -- and this is a quote -- that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation, end quote. and that, quote, the public and congress be informed of the results of the special counsel's work, end quote. however, there are at least two aspects of mr. mueller's investigation. first, russian interference in the united states election and whether any u.s. persons were involved in that interference. second, possible obstruction of justice. it is the second component that you have written on. just five months before you were nominated, i spent the weekend on your 19-page legal memo to
deputy attorney general rod rosenstein criticizing mueller's investigation, specifically the investigation into potential obstruction of justice. in the memo, you on colluconclu think, that special counsel mueller is, quote, grossly irresponsible for pursuing an obstruction case against the president and pursuing the obstruction inquiry is fatally misconceived. i hope we can straighten that out in this hearing. but your memo also shows a large sweeping view of presidential authority and a determined effort, i thought, to undermine bob mueller even though you state you have been friends and are in the dark about many of the facts of the investigation. so it does raise questions about your willingness to reach
conclusions before knowing the fact and whether you prejudged the mueller investigation. i hope you will make that clear today. it also raises a number of serious questions about your views on executive authority and whether the president is, in fact, above the law. for example, you wrote the president -- and i quote -- alone is the executive branch. as such, he is the sole repository of all executive powers conferred by the constitution. thus, the full measure of law enforcement authority is placed in the president's hands and no limit is placed on the kinds of cases subject to his control and supervision. this is in your memo on page ten. i will ask you about it. this analysis included cases involving potential misconduct where you concluded, and i quote, the president may
exercise his supervisory authority over cases dealing with his own interests and the president transgressions no legal limitation when he does so. that's on page 12. in fact, you went so far as to conclude that, quote, the framers' plan contemplates that the president's law enforcement powers extend to all matters including those in which he has a personal stake. you also wrote the constitution itself places no limit on the president's authority to act on matters which concern him or his own conduct, page ten. later you conceded that certain supervisory actions such as the firing of director comey may be unlawful obstruction. however, this, too, is qualified. you argue that such a case -- in such a case, obstruction of justice occurs only if first a
prosecutor proves that the president or his aides colluded with russia. specifically, you conclude -- and i quote -- the issue of obstruction only becomes ripe after the alleged collusion by the president or his campaign is established first. end quote. so that's some of the things i hope to ask you about. inn conclusion, let me just say that some of your past statements on the role of attorney general and presidential power are concerning. for instance, you have said in the past that the attorney general is the president's lawyer. in of 2017 you made comments suggesting it would be permissible for the president to
direct the justice department to open an investigation into his political opponents. this is notable in light of president trump's repeated calls for the investigation of hillary clinton and others who disagree with him. i believe it is important that the next attorney general be able to strongly resist pressure, whether from the administration or congress, to conduct investigations for political purposes. he must have the integrity, strength and fortitude to tell the president no, regardless of the consequences. in short, he must be willing to defend the independence of the justice department. so my questions will be do you have that strength and commitment to be independent of the white house pressures you will undoubtedly face. will you protect the integrity of the justice department above all else? thank you very much, mr.
chairman. >> thank you, senator feinstein. senator hatch, welcome back. we truly miss you. you were a great chairman and an incredible member of this body. you're very welcomed to share your thoughts about mr. barr with this committee. >> thank you so much, mr. chairman, ranking member feinstein as well, and members of the committee. it is my distinct pleasure to be here today to introduce william barr, the president's nominee to be attorney general of the united states. i have known and worked with bill closely over the years. i'm glad to call him a friend. bill has had a distinguished career in publish service and in the private sector. he started his career at the central intelligence agency. while there he went to law school part time at george washington university. following graduation he was selected for a prestigious clerkship on the d.c. circuit
before headed to private practice. later he served in the reagan white house in the office of policy development. following another stint in private practice, bill began his distinguished career at the department of justice under president george h.w. bush. bill served as the assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel. then as deputy attorney general, and finally as attorney general of the united states. as attorney general, bill oversaw a number of sensitive criminal investigations, including the investigation into the pan-am flight 103 bombing. he prioritized fighting violent crime and became known as the law and order attorney general. throughout his time at the justice department, bill earned a reputation as a fierce advocate for the rule of law as a principled and independent decision-maker and as a lawyer's
lawyer. he has shown his commitment to the constitution time and time again while serving our country. that is why he has been confirmed by the senate unanimously three times. after competing his service at the describing bill's distinguished career. there is no question, none whatsoever that bill is well qualified to serve as attorney general. he has held this position before and won high praise during his tenure for his fairness, his tenacity and his work ethic. so instead of droning on about bill's resume, i want to tell you about what bill identifies as the most important achievement of his private
service as attorney general, at least i believe this is what he believes. i believe his answer tells you much about how he will approach the job and who he is. when asked what his most important accomplishment was as attorney general, bill does not point to one of his many policy successes. he doesn't talk about his role in setting anti-trust merger guidelines. he doesn't say it was his role leading the d.o.j.'s response to the savings and loan process. no, for him, it was something more. it was something more tangible. it was talladega. three days after bill was named acting attorney general by president bush, 121 prisoners noted and seized control of the talladega federal correctional institution in alabama. this was a very serious matter. and they took ten hostages.
planning at the d.o.j. began immediately for how best to resolve the situation and secure the safe release of the hostages. in such a situation some would have sought political cover, not bill. he was in charge. he knew the response was his decision to make, his responsibility. he maintained his focus on the safety of the men and women held hostage by the prisoners. the standoff lasted ten days. then on bill's order fbi agents stormed the prison. three minutes later it was over. the hostage hostages were safe. the mission was well-planned and executed. the federal agents did not even have to fire a single shot. bill's decision making and judgment helped save lives. when president bush nominated
bill to be attorney general in 1991, i noted why he had been selected. he was not a member of president bush's political or personal inner circle. he was not a part of the president's brain trust. he was not a politician or a former politician who brought political clout to the position from prior elections or prior elected office. bill barr was a lawyer's lawyer, talent, merit and performance. those were the reasons president bush selected him to be the attorney general at that time. that statement holds true today. bill barr in my opinion is an outstanding choice for attorney general. his vast experience, renowned judgment and reputation as an ardent defender of the rule of law make him a nominee that the
american people, the president and the senate should all be proud of. so i feel very honored to be here today to speak and i hope that his nomination will be approved expeditiously. >> thank you, senator hatch. i would like to note that the rules of the senate prohibit outbursts, clapping or demonstrations of any kind. this includes blocking the view of people around you. please be mindful of these rules as we conduct this hearing. i will ask the capitol to remove anyone who violates the rules of this commission. thank you, senator hatch. mr. barr, would you come forward, please. raise your right hand. do you affirm that the time that you are about to give to this
committee will be the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. floor is yours. could i introduce my family. >> absolutely. >> my wife of 46 years, christine, a retired librarian. my daughter, margaret, who we call meg was an assistant united states attorney in the district of columbia but has moved to capitol hill and works for senator brawn. my middle daughter, patricia, who is also an attorney. she has been counsel to the house agriculture committee for how long now? 11 years. and my daughter, mary who is a long-time federal prosecutor and a currently the coordinator for opioid enforcement in the office of the deputy attorney general. mary's husband, mike, who is
also an attorney at the department of justice in the national security division. and their son, liam, who will someday be in the department of justice. patricia's husband who is a founding partner of a consulting firm. and meg's husband, tyler, who is also an assistant united states attorney in the eastern district of virginia. did i leave anyone out? >> think about medical school, liam. somebody needs to make money in the family. >> when meg was starting at notre dame, i told her that i wanted a doctor in the family and i made her take organic chem. needless to say, she is now a lawyer.
good morning mr. chairman, ranking member feinstein and members of the committee. i am haunderring that president trump has nominated me for the position of attorney general. i regret that i come before this committee at a time when much of our government is shutdown. and my thoughts are with the dedicated men and women of the department of justice and other federal workers, many of whom continue to perform their critical jobs. as you know, if the senate confirms me, this would be my second time i would have the honor of holding this office. during the four years i served under president george h.w. bush, he nominated me for three successive positions in the department, the assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel, the deputy attorney general and finally the attorney general. this committee unanimously
approved me for each of those offices. 27 years ago at my confirmation hearing, i explained that the office of attorney general is not like any other cabinet post. it is unique and has a critical role to play under our constitutional system. i said then, the attorney general has a very special obligation, unique obligations. he holds and trusts the fair and impartial administration of justice. it is the attorney general's responsibility to enforce the law even handedly and with integrity. the attorney general must ensure that the administration of justice, the enforcement of the law is above and away from politics. nothing could be more destructive of our system of government, of the rule of law, or the department of justice as an institution than any toleration of political
interference with the enforcement of the law. i believe this as strongly today as i did 27 years ago, indeed, more strongly. we live in a time when the country is deeply divided. in the current environment, the american people have to know that there are places in the government where the rule of law, not politics, holds sway. and where they will be treated fairly based solely on the facts and the even handed application of the law. the department of justice must be that place. i did not pursue this position. and when my name was first raised i was reluctant to be considered and indeed proposed a number of alternative candidates. i'm 68 years old, partially retired and nearing the end of a long legal career. my wife and i were looking forward to a peaceful and cherished time with our daughters and grandchildren. and i have had this job before.
but ultimately, i agreed to serve because i believe strongly in public service. i revere the law. i love the department of justice and the dedicated professionals who serve there. and i believe that i can do a good job leading the department in these times. if confirmed, i will serve with the same independence i did in 1991. at that time when president bush chose me, he sought no promises and asked only that his attorney general act with professionalism and integrity. likewise, president trump has sought no assurances, promises or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied. and where have not given him any other than that i would run the department with professionalism and integrity. as attorney general, my allegiance will be to the rule of