Trump's AG nominee William Barr defends memo criticizing Mueller probe during hearing

Attorney general nominee William Barr answered questions during a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
30:18 | 01/15/19

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Transcript for Trump's AG nominee William Barr defends memo criticizing Mueller probe during hearing
And. Hey welcome to the briefing Arum on Devin Dwyer of busy Tuesday here in Washington great to have you with us drummer Jack Johnson air justice reporter just official ahead of our. Pennsylvania Avenue you had a lot happening on Pennsylvania Avenue today. For senator bill Barr the president's nominee to be the next attorney general replacing Jeff Sessions this is and her for his first rodeo Jackie. Was unanimously confirmed 27 years ago but today. Time and again in the question we've been hearing. That this is in a very different times different in 1990s and the Democrats want some answers on how he would handle things right now. Well and particular. Democrats are concerned that you protect the Moeller probe that's that it Bob Mueller principal. The white elephant you can executive principal concern is that he he protect. The probe that a continued he's pledged right out of the gate from his opening remarks that he would be allowed to continue. And so you know he's seen sort of built a fence around that at least hoping to raise the comfort level I think of Democrats in the room. And be it right and we don't you think you did. Good job of that I think he neutralize the lot of the concerns he of course written a memo last year. Thing that. Expressing really deep sky skepticism about and obstruction of justice case. But he explained to and that memo saying it was a very narrow construction. Looking at not all the facts he didn't really have any effect you just looking at things I'm miles of. He certainly has deftly navigated their new did in their criticism from Democrats here he is seen in this town as it is a seasoned hand. Someone who served under president George Herbert Walker Bush. Is trusted because you he has is done the job before he. Doesn't come across as a trumping intact that you kind of listened to his whole thing you the big question is how it into them and art he only spoke to president trump once he said in the Oval Office and was very reluctant to have a job at let's. Yeah trump is known it is Ford put Ford people who he eventually. Who are established in conventional candidates who eventually blows up. It is home music I like it was over the previous confirmation hearings we've had better heard and seen on that very point on the time tone in plain to the president. Other here's a little bit from bill bars opening statement on that central question. About what he would do with respect to Robert Mueller pretty definitive he wants Bob Mueller to finish his work history of this. And I have the utmost respect for Bob in his distinguished record of public service. And when he was named special counsel RI said his selection was good news. And that knowing him. Our I had confidence he would handle the matter properly and I still have that confidence today. Confidence and he said repeatedly Jack that. Not only does he believe in Bob Mueller think that he should just finish the job he would not fire Bob Mueller without good cause he said. But a lot of debate here in the final moments of today's hearing about whether he would release the entirety. Of the report that Bob Mueller does is limited nuance there. There's a lot of cover these jackets didn't seem to report he has he's not read and on the investigation he didn't know what's there. And the just Justice Department has certain guidelines to cause it's confusing over over he's gonna. Followed the Justice Department practices and guidelines and that means when you do criminal investigation. If if you're not pressing a charging in seven. You either do that in court or you don't say anything about it now. The special counsel allows for some slightly different mourn smaller more nuanced interpretation to that. But he's leaving himself some wiggle room to be able to perhaps hold back some things if he sees a need to detour but. Here there is president of the precedents for making public. A display that is not going is not actually charged and I'm talking about the the call me in the post comments about Clinton widely criticized I don't know who exactly that was clean so I read it was assassinated it. Did cut against. Would put its common Justice Department practice when you're not charging somebody. You don't. Talk about their charges or the investigation because they don't have an opportunity to defend themselves and acorda law. We should say there's no question that bill Barr will get confirmed. In all likelihood here Republicans have sufficient majority in the senate to do just that in fact we just saw. Few minutes ago the top Democrat on the committee Dianne Feinstein handy and bill martian candy to sustain itself. Patrick visited the duration of this afternoon's hearing suggestions she's school are quite fond of him as well perhaps the best pick under these circumstances but before we move on to sort tart lemon about. The attorney general's position on a whole host of other issues is Justice Department oversees it's not just Bob Mueller it's immigration it's the criminal justice system even marijuana. Came up at the end let's take a little bit of a listen to. Question Nina bill bar on how he would handle the Justice Department's marijuana enforcement policy here this. I said that that's I said I'm not my American who go after companies that have have relied on. The coal memory and however. We either should have walked a federal law that prohibits marijuana. Everywhere which I would support myself. Because I think it's a mistake to back off on marijuana however. If we want a federal approach if we want states to have their own laws and let's get the aryan let's get there the right way and. With the explosion of legalization of recreational marijuana across the country including a couple more states in just the past mid terms Jack. This is been a huge question out there what is the federal government can do when states legalize it Jeff Sessions said. Fight it all the way this was a different line. That's right it and I think what you said your introductory remarks today if he holds especially true for this case because. You know back but let's at least attorney general in the George Herbert walker Bush Administration. To take it Merrill law wanna would be legalized there's really unthinkable at that point but you're seeing state after state after state legalize it. And the federal government has had been to basically yield on prosecutions in those states. And that the number memorandum that he referred to the co memorandum. For codify is that he says racket it's he's not going in with the idea of changing that and so. The current practice is gonna remain in place because the expectation that businesses these. New driving. Marijuana businesses. Industry has its artistry that up on the expectation that the federal government is not gonna come down hard on them. And congress still hasn't done anything about that which they technically have to be easily interest seemed to see. Fall highlights. From the bill bar hearing on abcnews.com. And of course great. Clip proves that you watch back of some of the key moments on ABC news live. RB BC news app as well so check that out moving on out of Capitol Hill where there's a big showdown taking place right now over some controversial comments. Iowa congressman Steve King made to the New York Times over the weekend. It is seeming to question whether white nationalism white supremacy easily western civilization. Is actually offensively racist. That is that is the question according to the times he posed why is. Whites the word white supremacy and western civilization why are these words of. And we've seen leadership and Republican leadership in the house and the senate condemned Steve King a he's been stripped of his committee assignments. But just a few minutes ago Steve King actually took to the Florida defend himself try to explain some those comments let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce. I've spent chasing down Steve Kane on the hill today she's been trying to get ahold of him in. Are also tracking reaction to Steve King married. Give us the latest on Steve King status in this Republican. Conference. Well look he's under tremendous mounting growing pressure from many have added even Republican colleagues who are saying it's time for him to go out and it's time for Steve king and to resign. Interestingly we have not heard been a top Republican in the house go that far but he is an inkling he's condemning these comments. He is being punished fervor of these comments look at it in a matter of minutes actually probably right and given one a one eye on the house floor because they are voting as we speak. On a measure to disapprove. These comments and Steve King is doubling down in some ways I'm making very clear he's not going anywhere. But he also it in his comments on the floor a short while ago underscored that he does not you know don't believe that AA in. And white supremacy bandit he says he was mischaracterized. That his comments were taken out of context. But yet in doing so he all seem to reiterate. Why these comments have also drawn such controversy because he he was arguing look Dennehy me there are the pawns in his original comment. He ringing me Steen and the comments as he and intended them to be said but. I don't think that really clarified much and look Steve King has a long track record of here and controversial. And racially tinged comments. This is not the first time. They don't want our Taiwan as a Republican to spark yeah I want to ask you about that. Number of Republicans blowing back Mitch McConnell said he needs to find another line of work where Romney said that Steve King should resign of course the Democrats have. Calls for him to go and centered and easy to drawn a primary challenge coming up in Tori Tori in Iowa but. I guess it's a big question today a lot of people are asking this isn't the first time Steve King. Has said what many people find to be racist comments. What what what's your sense of why Republicans are seizing on this moment to turn on him. Yeah it is interesting. Why now couple things first and I you've had a lot of prominent Republicans come out and call out their own colleagues for not. Taking a harder stance against Steve King when he's repeatedly made it out and and racist comments. You have Tim Scott Republican as saying in and rather blistering op bad op Ed calling out. A his fellow Republicans and this is why so many Americans have concerned top and about where we stand been staying there Robin and need to be more forceful in condemning. Comments like those coming from Steve King I think that littered lit a certain fire under a lot of Republicans many of new members like mayor Ronnie coming out. And saying point blank without hesitation it's time for him to resign. I was speaking with house Republican leader. Kevin McCarthy earlier today in a press conference where he was asked him why now you know what wind Harry taking his hardline stand unease at what I was an in this position before he says he met with Steve King. He listened to what he had to say and he didn't feel that in his comments in this New York Times interview reflect their party it's not what they stand for and he did tell me that look what comes next he says is out to Steve King. I mean would not say that he should resign but it is very clear that Republicans are doing everything they came here to essentially usher him towards the exit. Cramer Bruce thanks so much so you have much more coming up home on world news tonight 6:30 PM eastern time 8 PM merger and ABC news live but let's. Take a listen to Steve King defending himself just moments ago on the house floor. He actually re read his comments to the New York Times trying to Parse them explain them this is it was to listen to it don't world dissected to listen. I understand how you interpreted my words when you read them this way. There is no tape. For this interview that I did it was 56 minutes long. There are some notes on the other end but there is no tape there's no way to go back and listen but I can tell you this. That ideology. Never shows up in my head. I don't know how it could possibly come out of my mouth. So I'm gonna tell you. That the words are likely what I said. I don't want to read it to you the way I believe I said. And that's this. White nationalist white supremacists. Western civilization. How did that language become offensive. Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and civilization. And that's the end of the quote. Just to watch western civilization become a derogatory term in political discourse today. That's what I believe happened. OK so Devin he says there's no tape right but now there's tape he just. His argument was you can you don't know what I said New York Times because it wasn't recorded. Let me tell you how why how I actually citizen than he not sure he cleared up very much. I mean you judge for yourself but he was arguing that there was a pause between the words. White supremacy in western. Civilization. And that that somehow. You know clears it all up but I mean he just. Rand what he believes he said and I think anybody listening ward would still be disturbed by those com. A lot of people disturbed by the comments and not and because largely because that's the first time Steve King has suggested these things but you're there's one sort of very obvious person who hasn't weighed in on this here president trump he was asked yesterday about Steve king's comments where he thought of running saying it hadn't heard and seen them yet. Bob are just in you don't Steve King. Donald Trump. Have been very close political allies and one wonders whether if the president does weigh in in support of Steve King that court shift the store August Steve wants long he'd. Are aligned ideologically on immigration and border security I'm he is a staunch ally of the president on this topic. The as you said the president was asked about the other days and I haven't been following that. There is no way or real excuse to not being having filed this now given that level of attention it's gotten and we know on the pass that okay here's what they said in 2014 when they were together. As the puzzle is mulling a run at that time. To run for president he called Steve King a special guy a Smart person would really woods really right views on almost everything. Saying we don't even have to compare notes 'cause we agree so much. He's going to want to make some sort of distinction now. Releasing something about it and it does to meet you wonder whether it will give some of these Republicans cover to sort of let the skull that this slide. And take some of the heat off we shall see the president has been asked him today Renault and I'll tell you wanting the president can't say which I sort of thought he might was that he would turn on the New York Times and say we'll let you know again an all wrong but now you have he read Steve King in his own your answered so right. Interest in. Are just in thanks for that meanwhile the government here are still partially shut down or. So like Groundhog Day in you really feel for all those workers out there another 270000. Federal workers today. Not getting their first paycheck and of course the big one. The US Coast Guard today for the first time ever. Becomes the only military service branch not to be paid. During a federal government shut down 53000. Coast Guard workers that's a big one a lot of them deployed around the world. I wanna bring bring in one of those workers now Candace Nesbitt joins us your and a greater room live from Virginia Beach, Virginia Candace. Thank you so much a navy veteran and now a civilian administrative assistant at the at the Coast Guard think so much for being here. Do you give us here our reaction today to to this milestone of the Coast Guard workers not getting paid what. What are you hearing from your colleagues that the due at the department. Well they been shaken in every day on cinemas emails soon. Let us know that we aren't still thought about us. And you know there hasn't been any changes. One. It's pretty devastating. And them are wary about some the the military. Low ranking military you know strategy group during this time. And it Candice what. What's the financial impact been for you so far. Obviously your last paycheck I think is that the end of last month. But tell us how you've been going coping and how difficult it's been financially. Whoosh. It's pretty difficult. A year ago I just took this position contrary. I had been unemployed for four months then I got the position accidents than a thousand dollar pay cut com just sold it acted. They'll get into the federal don't mean it has something a little bit what's sure. On so this has really com. Doug in. It just started clothes and are credited yesterday. Sue charter. You know it did some took some assistance. And done. Luckily I had my theme here is that girls or me. If there's anything that I need at trains to hack quote me suit. You know ask if there's anything they could slow needs so calm. It says it's difficult to let's say. Except it because. I'm cheering so my special needs grandson. It's is is going to be just grow here next couple of weeks. Is going to we're doing well yeah. He had it does seem like this is going to be very unfair for a are good they Candice at Telus. Tell us your your view of what you think policymakers should do you know there are at odds over funding. Forbid for the president's demand for border wall. We we've been talking to a lot of people affected by the shut down do you think that that there needs to be a compromise here do you do you have a position on the wall yourself. Though I didn't have my own position on the wall my own. Political views. And and I just leave today you know he should be eaten so come together and Annan. I hash this out make some decisions and go forward on. I'm in favor. The amount of money needed to construct the war period. I am in favor of the opening opening done me any day. Eagles those conversations. In an accident no affecting these people to its own is gonna affect us for a long time. That really just ask you the president says that people like yourself whether you feel supportive of the wall on the amount they are not. I do agree with him that the situation at the border is a crisis do you is that a fair statement does that apply do you do you see a crisis of the border right now. No this does that doesn't apply to me it's a crisis. Is that prices. You look at him on the GS eight. Sit. On it that we've gotten our peak. Some mortgages that they. Still teens. Spokesman Norman table. The county is looking real slow and and I just don't think. He's Haitian reality. It's okay candidates Nesbitt thanks for sharing your view good luck to you and to the rest of the Coast Guard. Now working today. Without pay for the first time than any shutdown 53000 Coast Guard workers are on duty Candace has been thank you. Are some breaking news right now coming in here to the briefing room overseas this one in London it's a bit complicated if you haven't been following. Along with the Arab British decision to pull out of the European Union and its brakes citric. Yeah calling parks it's becoming a that it of a mass for prime minister Teresa may take a look here live picture. The house of commons over there where she just lost by historic margin not seen in over a hundred years I think. In who have lost an endorsement of her deal that she's trying to but it took to broker to exit. The European Union it is a difficult situation it may put her job at risk. Obviously Teresa made the British people atop that American ally lot of financial considerations here. Austin nature I mean they are scheduled to leave the European Union in two weeks from now essentially march 29. So without a planned to do that. Prospect for financial disruption is is huge and there's a lot of uncertainty about what they're gonna do next there are some MPs over their calling. Per you know another referendum vote like they had to sixty enticing seemed to leave. The EU and but really what happens next. It is up in the air many. Think at this point it begins with Teresa may. Stepping aside one where another UC earn your screen that there's this there's the vote total. 430 to know for that deal the 202 that's more than 200. And thirty vote margin and that's her that's a record there in the UK. Certainly something to keep an eye on and we will do that and abcnews.com. All right moving on now too big weekend here in Washington and across the country where women are holding their third annual women's march in support of women across this country it was a movement that sort of rose up after between sixteen campaign we saw women flood the streets of Washington in record numbers. Up last year as well they're planning another march on the web one I think this we can't piano and Washington thousands expected here there are number of sister march is taking place nationwide including in Chicago. Were a group of young women there are founding the young women's march of Chicago and joined join a celebration and jasmine Marie Cruz she's. A nineteen year old college freshman from Chicago and also Cora haul worth. She's a high school sophomore Andy youth ambassador for the women's march great to see both ladies thank you so much for joining us. So what inspired you to step up and M and leave this movement for this weekend in Chicago. And if it's confusing yeah I think it's. When I saw that Chicago didn't have a woman's march planned. A it was really disappointment NN I thought that it was important to Chicago to have a employees along with Washington in New York. Because Chicago such a diverse and inclusive place so I started a sister march and it's just grown into this and I'm very proud of it. And when I was asked to join net I was very. Very happy that I was. That was got to be part of something and gave added the women's march again because I'm I was a part of the first women's march as a youth ambassador. And sell just joining yet again we'll it really was. Just happy. To me that's great and obviously it's a big undertaking for both the view great to see that initiative UREX imagine you're expecting that turn out on Saturday. The end yet it's going to be very great where and about a thousand already planning and so are very excited about and. And what's your what's your message this year just memory what what's your most urgent priority. You're trying to get the word out about. My death my time to get the word out about. Marry is going to be portraying inclusion and diversity. And we're trying to faithful are. The ending of violence against women and found we're tying to. Fight for amendments on justice disability rights we have a very big list of things we're going to be focusing on her very exciting thanks. They'll write about fantastic what thanks for coming here in the average Germany ABC news good luck to you this weekend just murmuring crews. And core haul worth both organizers of the young women's march in Chicago this weekend thanks ladies. We'll finally not a big headline today coming out of a federal district court in New York this one if dealing the first blow against a trump administration's decision Johnston. To try to include a citizenship question on the 20s40 census. The judge ruling judge Jesse Furman of the US district court there said it there there was a veritable smorgasbord of violations. A federal law in secretary Wilbur Ross moving to include this question on. Yes it's it hasn't been asking for are US citizens the question and the fear. Among many critics of that question including the Census Bureau itself. Is that people will were fused to fill out the census especially non citizens. Living in the United States that. The the Census Bureau estimates as many as sixty. 3000. Or 630000. Rather households. May not assign it altogether and may not fill it out. Therefore drastically sort of getting a pour estimate of how many people are living in our. Don't just so essential to so many things in our government may only do once every ten years under the constitution determines political representation. Two of federal benefit distribution all across the country there are still five lawsuits pending so certainly something to keep an eye on but. Voted the trump administration today and I want to bring in now our congressman Markey Castro of Texas. He's the chairman of the congressional Hispanic caucus and someone who's gonna have vocal opponent of this effort to include the question congressman thank you so much. For joining NASA during the briefing room want to get your reaction right off the top to this rule we not a federal court. I was glad to see the court rule this way. Basically the trump administration. Has been trying to politicize the census. And I know it's Wilbur Ross in the Commerce Department but really it's Stephen Miller and those folks over the White House. Who were trying to use the census as an act of intimidation. To basically get certain people to stay in the shadows and that's undocumented immigrants and others. And remember the reason this is important because the census is supposed to be account. Everybody who was in the United States. That's all it is its account of every single person who is here regardless of their status and as Joseph mentioned it helps determine. Things like federal funding. And so it's a very important document and nobody Democrat Republican nobody should try to politicize. This document. It's so did it to play devil's advocate that to the trump administration has said that congressman this is just a mind being question are you a citizen. Hot it's been asked in the past it you know it isn't it reasonable for for the government to collect. An accurate number of how many citizens are in the United States what do you say to that argument. Yeah that's a great question I think a lot of people who hear that would probably say hey Al what's wrong with asking whether somebody's a citizen or not. But remember a thing about the White House we have right now. This is the White House that has instituted what is essentially a Muslim travel program. That has demonized immigrants scapegoated immigrants use them for political purposes. That wants to build a wall. And the last time this question was asked. Was in segregated America was in I think the 1940 census was the last time that this question was asked. There's a reason that after that it has not been asked and that's because. This shouldn't be a political document and everybody that's here every person should feel comfortable answering it because it's important information that the federal government needs. And what do you think the practical impacts will be congressman if this. If if if it's affirmed that the question can actually be put. And it's worn torn census what what would happen and threw a fit if it was put there yeah. Well I I think that's a good question because the battle's not over the legal battle will continue on whether this is going to be included or not. And if it is ultimately included I hope that it's not. But if it is ultimately included I think we can which are going to see I'm fairly confident is that you're gonna have hundreds of thousands of households. Who are perhaps millions. Who are less likely to answer the senses and it's already tough to get people to answer the census but you're gonna have less people answering it which means. Big states like Texas in my home state probably Florida California and other places are gonna get less federal funding and we're gonna happen. Much less accurate information about the United States in general. And congressman before I let you go got to ask you about your colleague Steve King from Iowa who is taken a lot of heat today there's that censure. Resolution on the floor. He just took to the floor we talked earlier in the show trying to explain his comments does that did did his explanation alleviate your concerns what what's your take on what's happening with Steve King. I didn't get to hear all of his remarks or did hear a few minutes of what he had to say but look Steve the problem is its teeth he's been doing this for years. He's been demonizing. Immigrants and brown people for a long time. And finally crossed the line even for. Four Republicans and conservatives in congress I was glad to see that we had I think what looked like a near unanimous vote I glanced up at at the voting board. Condemnation of steam being because there's a real effect to that kind of language and the fact is that it creates a climate of intolerance in this country and we have seen people's lives be putting danger we've seen people attack on the street. Because of the color of their skin we've seen people murdered in their senate gone because of their religion. We've seen people slandered in their schools yelled and call went back and others planned slurs because simply of of who they are things that they have no way of changing. So. The language is seeking his use is is. Very hurtful but also in many ways for people for Americans dangerous language and there's got to be a price to that kind of shameless bigotry. All right crack congressmen walking castor chairman Medicare congressional Hispanic caucus thank you so much for coming on the briefing room appreciate your time very much sir. And thank you very much watching this year and ABC news for just official on Devin Dwyer will be right back here tomorrow at 3:30 eastern in the briefing room until then we'll see you next.

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