Lindsey Graham asks William Barr to "promise" to probe Mueller's team over alleged anti-Trump bias

"I promise you: We will protect the investigation, but we're relying on you to clean this place up," Graham says

Published January 15, 2019 4:17PM (EST)

Lindsey Graham; William Barr (MSNBC)
Lindsey Graham; William Barr (MSNBC)

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Republican who chairs of the Judiciary Committee, asked William Barr, President Donald Trump's choice to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, if he would "promise" to investigate  allegations of anti-Trump bias among members of special counsel Robert Mueller's team, who are investigating allegations of collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government.

During Barr's highly-anticipated confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Graham read a series of anti-Trump texts swapped between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, in which they called the commander-in-chief "an effing idiot" and a "loathsome human being." The two were briefly members of Mueller's team, who were swiftly removed after their texts were revealed. (Strzok also worked on the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.)

"To all of those that enforce the law, you can have any opinion of us that you like — but you're supposed to do your job without an agenda," Graham told the chamber.

Speaking directly to Barr, Graham asked, "Do you promise me as attorney general – if you get this job – to look and see what happened in 2016?"

"Yes, Mr. Chairman," Barr replied.

"How do you these statements sit with you?" Graham asked Barr.

"I was shocked when I saw them," Barr answered.

"Please get to the bottom of it. I promise you: We will protect the investigation, but we're relying on you to clean this place up," Graham said, referencing the Department of Justice.

Since Trump announced his intention to nominate Barr as attorney general last month, Democratic lawmakers have questioned his previous statements about the special counsel's investigation. Earlier this year, Barr reportedly sent an "unsolicited memo" to the Justice Department, in which he spoke out against the probe. He said that Mueller's inquiry into potential obstruction of justice by Trump was based on a "fatally misconceived" theory that would threaten the presidency and the executive branch.

That was not the first time that Barr had publicly criticized the probe, which he could soon oversee. He told The Hill last year that "leaks" from the special counsel's office "raise questions as to whether there is an agenda" and suggested that Mueller's team was not politically "balanced," as some members had made political contributions to Democratic candidates. Notably, Mueller, who is leading the probe, is a member of the Republican Party.

If confirmed, Barr would succeed acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who was appointed by the president to temporarily replace Sessions after the commander-in-chief fired him from his job as the nation's top law enforcement official. White House officials have contended that Barr would be swiftly appointed to the post by a GOP-controlled Senate.

Trump has vehemently denied all allegations of collusion with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign and has repeatedly railed against Mueller's investigation into the matter as a politically-motivated "witch hunt." The president has also accused Mueller's team of "viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts," comparing the probe to the McCarthy period, named for former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), who accused hundreds of Americans of being communists or communist sympathizers in the 1950s.

Watch Graham's line of questions below.

By Shira Tarlo

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