Confirmation hearings began Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee for attorney general nominee William Barr, but there were few sparks or contentious moments.
Barr’s measured and thoughtful responses to the various questions posed to him left senators on both sides of the aisle feeling “comfortable” with the nominee, particularly with regard to his opinions on Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Bill and Bob
Fox News reported that there had been some concern among Democrats that Barr might act to shut down or otherwise interfere with Mueller’s special counsel investigation.
Those concerns were based on an unsolicited memo Barr had written previously to Department of Justice leaders expressing his own concerns with the scope of the Mueller probe, especially with regard to the “obstruction of justice” track some assumed the Mueller probe had taken.
However, Barr appears to have put most of those concerns to rest with his responses, which made clear that he had a longstanding personal friendship with Mueller — to whom he referred repeatedly as “Bob” — that he didn’t see the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt” as the president has characterized it, and that he intended to allow Mueller the opportunity to complete his work.
At one point in the proceedings, Barr told the committee: “I will follow the Special Counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work.”
The “adult in the room”
The co-hosts of Fox’s Outnumbered spent some time discussing what they had heard during a brief break in the proceedings Tuesday, with guest host Judge Andrew Napolitano seemingly quite pleased with how well Barr had performed to that point.
With respect to the notion that Barr might shut down the Mueller investigation, a clip was played of Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy asking what sort of circumstances might lead to such a decision. Barr replied: “Under the regulations, Bob Mueller could only be terminated for ‘good cause,’ and frankly, it is unimaginable to me that Bob would ever do anything that gave rise to good cause.”
Later, in reference to displays of nonpartisanship by Barr, Judge Napolitano said, “Bill Barr not only is a very savvy thinker and keeps getting referred to as the ‘adult in the room’ — if you compare him some of these people we’re talking about, yes, he is the adult in the room — he’s a very serious and almost academic-like thinker.”
With regard to the Barr memo about Mueller, Napolitano noted that it had been limited in nature and pointed out that Barr had admitted during his testimony that he wasn’t fully aware of all of the facts in the case, and that he was open to changing his mind in case additional information was presented to him once he had been confirmed.
“I thought that came across very credibly and in a way that made Republicans and Democrats feel comfortable,” Napolitano concluded.
All of the co-hosts on the couch agreed that Barr and the senators had conducted themselves in a “collegial” manner that was a welcome respite from the bitter fights that have been seen in other confirmation hearings for Trump appointees.
In the end, Barr came across as quite credible and reasonable, and there is little reason for any Democrats to vote against his confirmation, as he made it clear that he wouldn’t be prematurely shutting down or interfering with the Mueller investigation.