Feb 12 2019
WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) urged his Senate colleagues to oppose President Trump’s nomination of William Barr to serve as Attorney General.
In his floor remarks, Sen. Warner questioned Barr’s independence, citing the unsolicited memo that Barr authored and provided to the President’s legal team last June attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Emphasizing the need for an Attorney General who will protect the Special Counsel’s investigation from political interference, Sen. Warner brought up Barr’s problematically expansive views on the appropriate use of presidential pardons and questioned whether they factored into the President’s decision to nominate Barr for the position.
Additionally, Sen. Warner raised concerns about Barr’s stances on a number of policy issues, ranging from LGBTQ equality and the role of government in women’s reproductive health care, to Barr’s support of mandatory minimum sentences and the President’s “Muslim ban.”
Sen. Warner has been outspoken about the danger of confirming a nominee who was handpicked by the President to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation. He recently wrote an op-ed calling for this nomination to be withdrawn.
Below are the remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President I rise today to oppose the nomination of William Barr to be Attorney General that the Senate will be taking up later today.
I do have a number of concerns about this nominee on policy grounds. I echo what my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee have said about Mr. Barr’s troubling record on important issues affecting Americans’ constitutional freedoms.
He’s advocated for harsh mandatory minimum sentences, as well as the President’s Muslim Ban.
I also have serious concerns about his past statements about LGBTQ equality and the role of government in women’s reproductive health care.
As one telling example, he testified in his 1991 confirmation hearing that “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”
On all of these issues, he is entirely out of step with the views of the American public.
But for me, this is not simply an objection on policy grounds.
Nor is it a question of Mr. Barr’s experience. As a former attorney general, Mr. Barr has long been well-respected within the legal community.
But frankly, the nominee for our nation’s highest law enforcement position must be measured by more than his résumé.
Instead, this is a question of Mr. Barr’s fidelity to our Constitution.
I find Mr. Barr’s actions in the months leading up to his nomination to be deeply disturbing. And as a result, I have serious doubts about this nominee’s independence and willingness to stand up for the rule of law.
Last June, Mr. Barr wrote a secret, unsolicited memo attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice by the president, which Mr. Barr then passed to administration officials.
In November, President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions after months of public abuse over the Mueller investigation.
For a temporary replacement, he chose Matt Whitaker, whose primary qualification appears to be an op-ed he wrote decrying the scope of the Mueller probe.
With Mr. Barr’s nomination, it has become clear that the president’s sole concern is choosing a new attorney general who will shield him from the special counsel’s investigation. And Mr. Barr’s memo looks much more like a job application.
This President has repeatedly dangled the possibility of pardoning potential witnesses in the Special Counsel’s investigation.
Now, in Mr. Barr, the President has a nominee who has been outspoken about his expansive views on the appropriate use of the pardon powers.
Let’s be very clear. Any attempt by this President to pardon himself, his family, or key witnesses in the Mueller or SDNY investigations would represent an abuse of power that would require a response by Congress.
Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation has led to numerous indictments and convictions, including that of the president’s own campaign chairman.
It must continue free from political interference until it gets to the truth, and its findings must be released to Congress and the American public.
Under our constitutional system, no one is above the law, not even the president. We need an attorney general willing to vigorously defend this principle.
Consequently, I will oppose the nomination.
Thank you, Mr. President.