On the heels of next week’s Senate hearing for President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr, top Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Wednesday that he’s gearing up for another contentious confirmation process, and one that will center around the ongoing special counsel investigation.
“Mueller investigation will be front and center,” Durbin, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters on Wednesday.
The Senate Democratic whip added that he and his collogues have serious concerns about Barr’s past, especially the nominee’s outspoken criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign — which Barr would oversee if confirmed.
“There are so many questions to ask him,” Durbin said. “He volunteered his own opinion about the authority of Bob Mueller. That’s troublesome to me. That is a very difficult thing to ignore when we have a president who would constrain Mueller to the ash heap of history,” he added.
“If people are going to vote party line, we lose.”
“I’m sure he’ll deny any culpability and assure me he’s going to be a straight arrow. But I’m coming into this with great skepticism,” Durbin said.
Just months before receiving the nomination from the president, Barr sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department criticizing Mueller’s probe into allegations of collusion between the Russian government and the 2016 Trump campaign.
“Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction,” Barr wrote.
Barr’s confirmation hearing for the attorney general position next Tuesday follows an especially heated and highly political Supreme Court confirmation process last year, which ultimately saw Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmed by the Senate after a 50-48 vote.
This time around, however, Democrats have even less leverage after losing two crucial Senate seats in the midterm elections.
Durbin says it just means they will have to work harder to convince Republicans to defect.
“It’s going to be difficult. If people are going to vote party line, we lose. Best we can do is ask the questions and bring the case before the American people,” Durbin said.