Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel’s Russia probe, according to the Justice Department.
“Following General Barr’s confirmation, senior career ethics officials advised that General Barr should not recuse himself from the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement Monday. “Consistent with that advice, General Barr has decided not to recuse.”
The special counsel is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possible collusion by the campaign of President Donald Trump, possible obstruction of justice by Trump and other issues. Trump denies any wrongdoing.
Before becoming Attorney General, Barr last year, while working as a lawyer in private practice sent the Justice Department a 19-page unsolicited memo criticizing Mueller’s special probe as “fatally misconceived.”
“I believe it is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation,” Barr said during his confirmation hearing in January. “I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the Special Counsel’s work. For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.”
“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 decisions.”
During his confirmation hearings, Barr had said that if Justice ethics officials urged him to recuse from overseeing the Mueller investigation he wouldn’t follow it. Democrats urged Barr to step aside from overseeing the Mueller investigation, citing the memo from Barr.
Former AG Jeff Sessions had recused himself from overseeing probes related to Russian election meddling because of his own contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the election while supporting Trump as a U.S. senator from Alabama. His recusal let to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel by Sessions’s deputy, Rod Rosenstein.
Sessions resigned at the request of Trump in early November after the midterm election. Sessions’ chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, then took over running the Justice Department as acting attorney general. Whitaker did not recuse himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation despite a Justice Department ethics official recommending that he do so because of his past criticism of Mueller’s probes.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is still the primary liaison for Mueller’s Office. Barr is ultimately in charge, but Rosenstein is still the primary liaison between the DOJ and Special Counsel Mueller’s office.