Donald Trump's nomination to be the new attorney general, Bill Barr, is apparently a close personal friend of special counsel Robert Mueller and will let him complete his Russia investigation when he is appointed, according to South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
According to the Daily Mail, Graham met with Barr ahead of his confirmation hearing next week, in his capacity as incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. During their meeting, he apparently revealed details of his personal relationship with Mueller.
Barr and Mueller worked together between 1991 and 1993 when Barr served as attorney general under President Bush. During that period, Mueller was head of the department's criminal division.
Graham claimed that the two have remained close friends ever since. Mueller has apparently attended the weddings of two of Barr's daughters and their wives attend a bible study group together. As a result, Barr's "opinion of Mr. Mueller is very, very high in terms of ethics and character and professionalism," Graham said.
It is not known whether President Trump and the White House were aware of this personal relationship when nominating Barr as the new attorney general.
Graham went on to detail a number of specific questions he put to Barr and how the nominee responded.
"I asked Mr. Barr directly, 'Do you think Mr. Mueller is on a witch hunt?' He said no. 'Do you think he would be fair to the president and the country as a whole?' He said yes. 'And do you see any reason for Mr. Mueller's investigation to be stopped?' He said no. 'Do you see any reason for a termination based on cause?' He said no. 'Are you committed to making sure Mr. Mueller can finish his job?' Yes."He added that Barr indicated that he would "err on the side of transparency" when he eventually received Mueller's report.
The comments appear to contradict the contents of a memo about the Mueller probe which Barr wrote last year and which has been cited on the Senate floor by Democrat Minority leader Chuck Schumer.
In that memo, written to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year, Barr described Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice around Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey as being "fatally misconceived." He added that Mueller should not be permitted to "demand in-person question of the president."
In light of the memo, Schumer argued that Barr's nomination should be withdrawn and called on the Senate to scrutinize his views on the Mueller probe closely at his confirmation hearing next week.