William Barr, President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general who has a history of echoing Trump’s rhetoric, is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Cabinet nominees typically meet with senators from both parties who will be part of their confirmation process.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will oversee Barr’s attempt to become attorney general for the second time, said on Wednesday that Democrats are being prevented from meeting with the nominee in advance of his confirmation hearing.
“I have always met with major cabinet members under both the Obama administration as well as the Trump administration,” Klobuchar told MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. “I have met with the head of the Botanical Gardens — who’s not on the cabinet, of course. I have met with the nominee for the Patent Office, Chris. But we can’t have a meeting with the nominee for one of the most important cabinet positions while this Mueller investigation is going on before the hearing. And I just think that’s wrong.”
After Hayes asked the Minnesota Democrat for clarification about what she was told regarding Barr’s schedule, Klobuchar replied, “They said that I could meet him after the hearing — because of the shutdown that they weren’t able to do the meeting, which we know is pretty ironic given that we have TSA officers who are out there, and FBI and other government workers who are out doing their job now without pay or are furloughed.”
However, the ongoing government shutdown didn’t stop Trump’s attorney general nominee from meeting with multiple Senate Judiciary Republicans on Wednesday.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) shared photographs with Barr on social media.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted out an image from their meeting.
Met with William Barr, President Trump’s nominee to be U.S. Attorney General.
“One of the things I am most pleased about with this nomination is that Bill Barr is a ‘traditional law and order’ attorney general. He’s not a politician.” pic.twitter.com/V9lsekQxzk
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) January 9, 2019
Barr also spent time with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Ben Sasse (R-NE).
When Hayes pointed out that Barr had met with multiple Republicans from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Klobuchar said, “He did. But he was not able to meet with us until after the hearing — or at least with me. And I think Senator Blumenthal had also made a request.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) confirmed that the Justice Department offered him a meeting with Barr only after his confirmation hearing.
“William Barr’s refusal to meet with Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee is entirely unprecedented and unacceptable,” said Blumenthal in a statement on Wednesday. “The Department of Justice’s attempt to excuse this gross break in the norms by citing a ‘truncated schedule’ is galling when they are the ones who have rushed it.”
After meeting with Barr on Wednesday, Graham — who is replacing Grassley as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee — told reporters that Trump’s attorney general nominee sees “no reason for Mr. Mueller to stop doing his job, and is committed to allowing Mr. Mueller to finish.”
Barr, the attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993, sent a 19-page memo to the DOJ in June that criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Klobuchar referred to that memo as “a tryout for this job where he basically espoused this very expansive view of executive power that reminds me some of what we saw in the [Supreme Court Justice Brett] Kavanaugh hearings” on Wednesday.
The former attorney general has echoed much of Trump’s rhetoric on the partisan makeup of Mueller’s probe, investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the president’s firing of former FBI director James Comey.
Barr, who urged Bush to issue pardons over the Iran-Contra scandal that occurred while the latter was vice president, has also defended Trump’s ability to personally order DOJ investigations.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, another outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation, set up a system to bypass DOJ ethics officials on recusal from the Russia probe. Whitaker has been serving as acting attorney general since Trump fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions the day after Democrats flipped the House in November’s midterms.
Multiple outlets reported on Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who has overseen the Russia investigation since Sessions recused himself in March 2017, just a month into Trump’s presidency — is planning on stepping down once a new attorney general is confirmed.
“But we’re ready to go next week, Chris, and I’ll have a lot of good questions,” Klobuchar promised about Barr’s upcoming confirmation hearing at the end of Wednesday’s MSNBC appearance.