Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the Justice Department announced Monday evening.
“Following General Barr’s confirmation, senior career ethics officials advised that General Barr should not recuse himself from the special counsel’s investigation,” Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the department, said in a statement. “Consistent with that advice, General Barr has decided not to recuse.”
The announcement comes just weeks after Barr was confirmed by the Senate in a 54-45 vote, mostly along party lines, and as Mueller is expected to be wrapping up his probe. Many Democrats worried how Barr would handle the special counsel’s report when it is released and if he would order it made public.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Barr, who previously served as attorney general between 1991 and 1993, assured concerned senators that he would allow Mueller to finish up the inquiry and would not fire him, but remained vague on what he would do with the document once it reached his desk.
“It is in the best interest of everyone — the president, Congress and, most importantly, the American people — that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work,” Barr said at the time. During his hearing, Barr referred to the report as “confidential,” but said the attorney general could release a separate report on Mueller’s findings.
Barr came under fire during his confirmation battle over a memo he wrote to the Justice Department last June, before his nomination. In the document, Barr criticized one of Mueller’s reported lines of inquiry, arguing that President Donald Trump could not have obstructed justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey.
“Mueller’s obstruction theory is fatally misconceived,” Barr wrote in the 19-page document. “As I understand it, his theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law.”
Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from any matter related to the 2016 election shortly after he was appointed, a decision that infuriated the president. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller shortly thereafter.
Several outlets have reported that Mueller is said to be finishing up his inquiry and could deliver a report to the attorney general within weeks.