Barr ‘Will Not Be Bullied’ Into Doing Anything Wrong

The confirmation hearing for William Barr as President Trump’s next attorney general went smoothly, and he is expected to be confirmed easily. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says morale is low at DOJ.

Attorney general nominee William Barr promised senators never to cave to political pressure from President Trump or elsewhere, saying his age and experience free him to act independently from a president who has attacked the Justice Department, reports the Wall Street Journal. Barr, in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, repeatedly promised to allow special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to proceed to its conclusion. He said he would refuse a hypothetical order by Trump to fire Mueller without cause. “I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong—by anybody, whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the president,” said Barr, 68, who was attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.

Senators in both parties sought assurances Barr could bring stability to a Justice Department rocked by political turbulence and deal with a president who publicly rebuked former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal from oversight of Mueller’s investigation. The probe, which is also looking at claims of possible obstruction of justice and collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow, has led to guilty pleas and the conviction of former Trump aides. “I want to thank you for being willing to take this task on,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), making  his debut as Judiciary chairman. “We’ve got a lot of problems at the Department of Justice. I think morale is low, and we need to change that.” There were few fireworks and Barr didn’t make any serious flubs. With Republicans holding a 53-47 advantage in the Senate and with possible support from some Democrats, Barr is expected to be confirmed smoothly.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Whitaker to Appear Before House Judiciary on Feb. 8

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will testify before the House Judiciary Committee. He will appear one day after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testifies before the House Oversight Committee.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8, setting up dual blockbuster hearings that week as House Democrats launch their oversight into the Trump presidency, reports Politico. Whitaker will appear one day after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testifies before the House Oversight Committee. The two hearings will almost certainly create a headache for the president as special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into his 2016 presidential campaign enters its 20th month. Oversight Democrats are expected to ask Cohen about Trump’s campaign-time payments to women alleging extramarital affairs with the president and his financial dealings with Russia. Judiciary Democrats will press Whitaker, once a fervent critic of Mueller, about why he ignored ethics recommendations to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

Democrats have long suspected that Trump planted Whitaker as a spy, delegated to undercutting the Mueller probe. They’ll grill him on his interactions with Mueller as well as any information he passed on to Trump allies. Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) told Whitaker that if the plans to invoke executive privilege in an attempt to avoid answering any particular question, “I ask that you consult with the White House well in advance of the hearing.” Depending on William Barr’s confirmation date, Whitaker may be former acting attorney general at the time he testifies. Nadler’s panel is gearing up investigations on policy issues. On Monday, the committee asked the Homeland Security, Justice and Health and Human Services departments to preserve all documents related to Trump’s separation of immigrant families at the southwest border last summer.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Barr Tells Senators He Backs Sentencing Reforms

William Barr, who was known as a hard-liner on crime during his previous stint as Attorney General in the President George H. W. Bush administration, said he had “no problem with reforming the sentencing structure” as outlined in the First Step Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by Trump in late December.

William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, will support the new First Step Act that reforms federal sentencing practices and prison rehabilitation programs, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Barr, who was known as a hard-liner on crime during his previous stint as Attorney General in the administration of President George H. W. Bush, said he had “no problem with the approach of reforming the sentencing structure” as outlined in the law passed by Congress and signed by Trump in late December.

Barr argued that it was unfair to compare the Justice Department’s approach to criminal justice in the early 1990s to the situation today, the Washington Post reports.

“In 1992, when I was attorney general, the violent crime rates were the worst in American history, the sentences were extremely short,” Barr said, noting average sentences for rape were three years, and murder, just five to seven. “The system had broken down, and through a series of administrations, the laws were changed.”

“I understand that things have changed since 1992,” Barr told Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a leading supporter of the First Step Act.

Barr also said it would be an “abuse of power” for Trump to intervene in an investigation he “has a stake in,” the Associated Press reports. Barr told senators he believes such an action would be a breach of the president’s constitutional duties and could violate federal law depending upon the circumstances. 

Barr was responding to questions from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in light of a memo he wrote criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice investigation.

Barr has said the memo was intended to be narrowly focused on one of Mueller’s reported interpretations of obstruction. Barr also says his memo was based solely on public reporting and not any confidential information.

Barr said he doesn’t believe special counsel Robert Mueller “would be involved in a witch hunt.” Trump has repeatedly used that term to criticize the special counsel’s investigation and has suggested he is being targeted by the Justice Department. Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

Barr told senators he would look into how an FBI counterintelligence investigation was opened into whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia’s interests. Barr said he never had heard of the FBI opening such an investigation on an U.S. president.

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ Opinion Could Threaten Online Gambling

A legal opinion from the U.S. Department of Justice could threaten the viability of online gambling that crosses state lines such as poker. The opinion interprets the federal Wire Act, which prohibits interstate wagering, to apply to any form of gambling that crosses state lines, not just sports betting.

A legal opinion from the U.S. Department of Justice could threaten the viability of online gambling that crosses state lines such as poker, the Associated Press reports. The opinion interprets the federal Wire Act, which prohibits interstate wagering, to apply to any form of gambling that crosses state lines, not just sports betting. The opinion is a reversal for DOJ, which under the Obama administration in 2011 said online gambling within states that does not involve sporting events would not violate the federal law. The 2011 opinion opened the door for cash-strapped states and their lotteries to bring online gambling to their residents, as long as it did not involve interstate sports betting. Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware legalized online gambling after that opinion was issued; the three states have agreements allowing poker players to compete online across the states. Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online casino gambling in 2017.

Since it began in 2013, internet gambling has been the brightest spot for casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., often making the difference between an up month and a down one for the nine casinos. Iinternet gambling revenue increased by 21.6 percent in 2018 in New Jersey, to nearly $300 million. The Justice Department says the previous opinion misinterpreted the statute. The new opinion says that, “While the Wire Act is not a model of artful drafting, we conclude that the words of the statute are sufficiently clear and that all but one of its prohibitions sweep beyond sports gambling.” The Wire Act was enacted in 1961 to target the mob and its gambling activities. Experts said the sports betting industry will remain unaffected because the Wire Act already applied to that form of gambling under the previous interpretation.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Will Barr Confirmation Hearings Be ‘Kavanaugh 2.0’?

That is the question before the Senate Judiciary Committee starting Tuesday as members quiz William Barr, president Trump’s attorney general nominee. Barr will be “challenged for sure, hopefully respectfully,” says chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation tore the Senate Judiciary Committee apart. The panel is trying to put itself back together before a contentious fight over William Barr’s nomination for attorney general. It has a new chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), whose fiery denunciation of Democrats in Kavanaugh’s hearing on sex assault allegations cemented his role as one of President Trump’s most aggressive allies. It has three Democrats mulling a 2020 presidential run who played central roles in cross-examining Kavanaugh, Politico reports. Barr will come under fierce questioning this week over his views of presidential power and his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Graham must set the tone, and he’s not making promises. “I’m going to let it be up to [Democrats]. You pick these fights at your own peril. [Barr will] be challenged for sure. Hopefully respectfully,” he said. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said he hoped the chairman “can be the Lindsey Graham that I worked on immigration reform with. And not the Lindsey Graham who yelled during the Kavanaugh hearing.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said,  “I guess the question we all have is, ‘Is this going to be Kavanaugh 2.0?’ Where it’s really not about the search for the truth, it’s more about character assassination.” Barr will struggle to attract Democratic votes but can be confirmed without bipartisan support, perhaps lessening the drama of the outcome. Barr’s nomination is already off to a rough start, with several Democrats  complaining that Barr did not reach out to their offices for a typical courtesy meeting before the hearing. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has called for Trump to withdraw the nomination, arguing Barr has disqualified himself because of his criticism of Mueller’s probe.

from https://thecrimereport.org

FBI Agents Say Shutdown Compromises National Security

FBI agents, with more than half a million other federal employees, will miss their first paychecks on Friday because of the shutdown. The group sent Congress a letter arguing that “financial security is a matter of national security.”

The organization representing FBI agents called for an end to the ongoing partial government shutdown, warning that the lapse in funds is unsustainable and could ultimately compromise national security, Politico reports. The FBI Agents Association, which represents nearly all active duty FBI agents, urged Congress to pass appropriations for the Department of Justice as soon as possible, noting that FBI agents, along with more than half a million other federal employees, are set to miss their first paychecks on Friday because of the shutdown. The group sent a letter arguing that “financial security is a matter of national security.”

The partial shutdown, now in its 21st day, shows no signs of ending anytime soon as negotiations between Democrats and the White House over the issue of funding for border security remain at an impasse. While House Democrats aim to pass individual spending bills that would reopen more of the government, Republicans have largely stood with President Trump in opposition to a piecemeal approach without concessions from Democrats. The letter from the FBI agent group undercuts Trump’s argument that large parts of the federal workforce support his push for border wall funds, even if it means the government shutdown persists. The agents warn that resources for FBI investigations are running thin. Financial uncertainty caused by the possibility of future shutdowns could affect the agency in the long run by deterring prospective agents from joining or causing current agents to seek employment in the private sector.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Barr Expected to Back Sentencing Reform in Hearing

William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general, is expected to tell a Senate panel next week that he supports a new law easing prison sentences for some criminals, even though he advocated decades ago for just the opposite.

William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general, is expected to tell a Senate panel next week that he supports a new law easing prison sentences for some criminals, even though he advocated decades ago for just the opposite, Reuters reports. Barr for much of his career championed a get-tough approach to crime that has recently lost favor, culminating last month in Trump signing into law the biggest overhaul of federal sentencing laws and prison policies in a generation. The First Step Act, enacted with strong bipartisan support in Congress, reduces mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent, low-level offenders and makes it easier for prisoners to qualify for early release to halfway houses or home confinement.

Trump signed it into law after he nominated Barr, who issued a report during an earlier stint as attorney general in the 1990s called “The Case for More Incarceration.” “We believe that Barr’s position will be somewhat moderated when he testifies if for no other reason than that his boss (Trump) fully subscribes to the First Step approach,” said Fraternal Order of Police director Jim Pasco, who said he had been in touch with people helping Barr prepare for the Senate hearings. The Senate is expected to confirm Barr’s nomination to again head the Justice Department. Criminal justice advocates said they were working with Judiciary Committee members to make sure Barr will be questioned in detail about specific elements of the new law to ensure that he will support it. “It certainly appears he holds an old-school view of our criminal justice system, but there is an overwhelming majority of members of the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle who do not feel that way,” said Holly Harris of Justice Action Network, a coalition of criminal-justice groups across the political spectrum.

from https://thecrimereport.org

House Democrats Summon Whitaker to Appear by Jan. 29

The House Judiciary Committee is demanding that acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker testify by the morning of the State of the Union address on Jan. 29, rejecting a Justice Department plea to delay the hearing until February.

House Democrats summoned acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to testify by the morning of the State of the Union address on Jan. 29, rejecting a Justice Department plea to delay the hearing until February, reports Politico. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said that day was last that the panel could hear from Whitaker, a critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation who has refused to recuse himself from overseeing the probe. Republicans have called Whitaker’s appearance pointless, arguing that the Senate is soon set to confirm his permanent replacement, William Barr.

Democrats will not allow Whitaker to fade away without a proper grilling. And they’re intent on hearing from him about how and why he got the job, whether President Trump asked him to end or limit the FBI’s Russia investigation and why he has ignored recommendations from ethics officials that he recuse himself from the matter. Nadler told DOJ on Wednesday that “it has been nearly 15 months since Attorney General Sessions testified before the committee. It is past time for the committee to conduct oversight.” DOJ had asked to postpone the hearing until Feb. 12 or Feb. 13 — “so long as the Department is at least two weeks removed from a partial government shutdown.” Democrats cited 1995 guidance from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel that officials may appear before Congress in a shutdown.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Rosenstein Likely to Leave DOJ Under Barr

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave the Justice Department in the coming weeks after the confirmation of President Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr, who wants to choose his own deputy.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave the Justice Department in the coming weeks after the confirmation of President Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr, the Wall Street Journal reports. Rosenstein, whose tenure as the Justice Department’s second-in-command has been rocky, had long planned to hold the position for about two years. The arrival of a new attorney general would be a logical time for him to depart, and there were no indications he is being forced out.

Rosenstein, a longtime federal prosecutor, became the department’s No. 2 early in  Trump’s term. Rosenstein has overseen special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation because Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself, making Rosenstein a frequent target of Mr. Trump’s ire. Barr is expected to be confirmed after hearings next week. Associates have said Barr was hesitant to take the job but did so under certain conditions, including that he be able to choose his own deputy.

from https://thecrimereport.org

House Democrats May Subpoena Whitaker to Testify

The Justice Department is trying to delay acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats want to ask him about his supervision of special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Justice Department is trying to delay acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s testimony to the new Democratic-led House until next month, potentially pushing his high-profile appearance until after a permanent replacement has been confirmed, reports Politico. Whitaker had committed to Democratic leaders that he’d give testimony in January to the House Judiciary Committee. Those plans have stalled, with Justice Department officials citing the government shutdown and Whitaker’s busy travel schedule as reasons for pushing back the hearing. House Democrats have been pressing for public answers from Whitaker since November about his role overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after the departure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The Senate is scheduled to hold confirmation hearings on William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, next week. Democrats upset about the Justice Department’s delay with Whitaker have been considering a subpoena to force his appearance, figuring they will have only a limited window to ask questions about how he decided against a recusal from overseeing the Mueller probe and any moves he has made involving the investigation. Democrats plan to make a potential Whitaker subpoena their main item of discussion when the Judiciary Committee holds its organizational meeting for the new Congress, possibly this week. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the new ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said it was essentially pointless for Whitaker to appear because he is on his way out the door.

from https://thecrimereport.org