Senate panel set to approve Trump's attorney general nominee

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham R-S.C. listens at left as Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif. the ranking member objects to advancing the nomination of Bill Barr to be attorney general on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday Feb. 7 2

A confirmation vote on Barr is expected some time this month.

Blumenthal said not releasing Mueller's report would be akin to a "coverup." Sen.

But Democrats said Thursday that Barr, 68, has to be scrutinized under what Sen.

"We need an Attorney General who will work to advance the principle of equal justice under the law".

He is expected to win confirmation in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Barr also gave senators key assurances that he would allow Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III to finish a probe into the 2016 elections and make public as much of the final report as possible.

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During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Barr, 68, assured senators of his independence and said that he would not be bullied by anyone into doing something he believes is wrong if he becomes the attorney general. While Barr has vowed to be as transparent as he can be, Democratic lawmakers have said that is not adequate.

Democrats said they anxious about confirming Barr to return to the Justice Department - he already served as attorney general in the administration of former President George H.W. Bush - with less than an ironclad promise to release Mueller's findings.

Democrats have also criticized a memo Barr wrote to the Justice Department before his nomination in which he criticized Mueller's investigation for the way it was presumably looking into whether Trump had obstructed justice.

Barr, the architect behind many tough-on-crime policies that led to disproportionately high rates of incarceration in the African-American community, acknowledged the disparate impacts of those laws and committed to fully enforcing the First Step Act, a piece of landmark criminal justice reform legislation signed into law by Trump in December. On Thursday, Sen. John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, said that he would vote for it even though he said the "only question" is whether the Mueller report is going to leak "in toto" or in part.

If he wins the job, Barr's independence could be put to the test when Mueller wraps up his investigation into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russian Federation during the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly dismissed any collusion between his campaign and Moscow, while slamming the Mueller probe as a "hoax" or "witch hunt".

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