Graham to lead Barr AG hearing
When Lindsey Graham takes the gavel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will he be a thoughtful collaborator or a hyper-partisan crusader?
Will he be a team player or a legislator intent on setting his own agenda?
The South Carolina Republican has shown he can be any or all of these personas just in the last few weeks. Tuesday, newly-designated Chairman Graham will preside over one of Washington’s — and the nation’s — most eagerly awaited Senate hearings, a grilling of William Barr, the nominee to be President Donald Trump’s new attorney general.
“I can’t figure Lindsey out,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, DConnecticut, with a laugh. “But I think people have probably said that about Lindsey for decades. I think he prides himself on keeping his friends and adversaries guessing.”
At the confirmation hearing Tuesday, Barr is expected to get questions about his commitment to allowing White House special counsel Robert Mueller to complete the investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. Mueller’s probe likely includes an inquiry into the circumstances surround Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI Director.
Mueller works for the attorney general.
Democrats will be working
hard to poke holes in Barr’s efforts at impartiality. They will point to an opinion piece Barr wrote in the Washington Post days after Comey was fired, stating Trump had the authority to fire political appointees. Democrats are also concerned that Barr, a year later, reiterated his support for Trump’s Comey actions in a memo to outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Graham, who has plans to move legislation through his committee soon that would protect Mueller from being fired by Trump, said Barr supports Mueller’s investigation and would “err on the side of transparency” in sharing the findings of the special counsel’s final report with Congress and the public. Graham also said Barr was entitled to write a memo, and express opinions, as a private citizen.
“We’re gonna make sure our Democratic friends have information relevant for or against Mr. Barr,” Graham said. “I expect him to be challenged, and it would be appropriate to challenge him about this memo and other things. I just hope it’s done respectfully.”
Whether Graham thinks Democrats are being “respectful” of Barr could be set the tone for the entire hearing, which is expected to last two days.
Last fall, Graham unleashed a side of himself few of his colleagues had seen during the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court. Convinced Kavanaugh was being wrongly accused of sexual assault, Graham delivered a scathing critique of Democrats’ attempts to “ruin a man’s life.”
The speech went viral, with Graham catapulted to conservative stardom. Before the midterm elections, Graham went on a two-week tour through the country to boost Republican candidates in competitive races, including those going up against Democratic incumbents.
With many committee members from the last Congress set to return this year, hard feelings and a lack of trust could linger, especially involving judicial nominees.
Like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Graham believes part of the Repub- lican legacy in the Senate majority should be confirming a record number of conservative judges to lifetime appointments on the federal bench.
Ultimately, his penchant for making news could be what dictates the issues Graham takes on and how he runs the committee. The Barr confirmation hearings will be widely watched, with Graham, who is known for his one-liners and zingers, center stage.
Graham “may have to have his own television network,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri. “He’s smart and he’s quick and he’s funny, but he also feels strongly about what he feels strongly about.”
Brian Murphy of the McClatchy Washington bureau contributed to this report.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will preside over one of the nation’s most eagerly awaited Senate hearings.