Grassley: Barr is Highly Accomplished Attorney & Experienced Public Servant
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced his support for Attorney General nominee William Barr today at a committee meeting. The committee advanced Barr’s nomination on a vote of 12-10.
Below are excerpts from Grassley’s remarks:
“Mr. Barr is a highly accomplished attorney, and an experienced public servant with an outstanding record. The Justice Department needs good effective leadership, and we should act quickly to fill the top spot. I believe that Mr. Barr will be a good leader for the Justice Department, as he has demonstrated in the past.”
“I believe that Mr. Barr is an excellent nominee – you couldn’t ask for a more competent or more experienced individual for the job.”
“Mr. Barr is a capable attorney, knowledgeable of the law, and honorable. He’s a straight shooter and an individual who is willing to engage in productive discussion with Congress, which is a key quality we want in the individual who will run the Justice Department.”
In his full remarks, Grassley noted that Barr thoroughly answered questions by committee members. Barr pledged to faithfully implement the First Step Act, stated that we would work to support the False Claims Act and noted the importance of transparency following the special counsel’s work.
Full text of Grassley’s prepared remarks follows:
Prepared Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On Nomination of William Barr to be Attorney General of the United States,
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Mr. Chairman, I will vote for William Barr to be Attorney General for the United States. Mr. Barr is a highly accomplished attorney, and an experienced public servant with an outstanding record. The Justice Department needs good effective leadership, and we should act quickly to fill the top spot. I believe that Mr. Barr will be a good leader for the Justice Department, as he has demonstrated in the past.
In my opinion, Mr. Barr has been candid with the Committee and has done his best at answering questions on his views on various topics, as well as addressing concerns raised by members of this Committee, including my own.
For example, I went into Mr. Barr’s confirmation hearing with concerns regarding his prior statements on criminal justice reform, in particular a 1992 Justice Department report released when he was Attorney General entitled, “The Case for More Incarceration,” and a letter he signed in 2015 opposing the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
These statements concerned me because, as Attorney General, Mr. Barr will be responsible for implementing the recently passed First Step Act of 2018, which members of this Committee are very familiar with, especially because many of you worked tirelessly for its passage.
At the hearing, I directly and clearly asked Mr. Barr if – even though he had opposed criminal justice reform in the past – he would commit to fully implementing the First Step Act. Mr. Barr’s answer was a clear and convincing “Yes.” He went on to say “I have no problem with the approach of reforming the prison structure and I will faithfully implement the law.”
Later in the hearing, other Senators pointed to Mr. Barr’s past stances on criminal justice and sentencing reform and asked for Mr. Barr’s current views on this topic. They also asked for assurances that Mr. Barr would dutifully implement the First Step legislation. Mr. Barr expressed his current misgivings about high sentences for drug offenders established in the 1990s. Each time he answered clearly that he would dutifully implement First Step and work to ensure that the intent of Congress was realized.
Mr. Barr’s answers to my questions and the questions of my colleagues regarding First Step relieved my concerns of his past statements. While I’ll continue to use the oversight powers of Congress to ensure First Step is applied and implemented as is required by law, I believe Mr. Barr’s testimony, and I look forward to working with him on both the implementation of current law and future steps in criminal justice reform.
Another issue of importance to me was Mr. Barr’s position on the False Claims Act. At the hearing, I asked Mr. Barr pointed questions on his stance with respect to whistleblowers and whether he supported the False Claims Act. This is because in the past, Mr. Barr had been extremely critical of the False Claims Act, including questioning the constitutionality of the Act.
Mr. Barr responded to my inquiry by confirming that he believes the False Claims Act is constitutional, and that he would fully and faithfully implement the law. He acknowledged the benefits of the False Claims Act, and assured me that he would work to support the law and the qui tam activities of the Justice Department.
Further, during his confirmation hearing, I pressed Mr. Barr about transparency with regard to the Special Counsel’s report. I made very clear that I want the report to be made public. Taxpayers deserve to know what their money is being spent on. The only way the American taxpayer—and Congress—can hold the government accountable is through transparency.
Of course, there are some legitimate reasons for withholding certain information, such as national security or privacy. But there should be as much transparency as possible regarding the release of the report.
I was encouraged to hear Mr. Barr place a high priority on transparency when asked about Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. And there’s no reason to think that Mueller won’t be allowed to finish his work.
Mr. Barr assured me and other members of this Committee that he’d release as much information as possible, consistent with the law. I have no reason to doubt Mr. Barr’s sincerity or his commitment to transparency and the law. If he’s confirmed, I expect to keep in touch with him on this issue.
I’ll also note that Senator Blumenthal and I recently introduced the Special Counsel Transparency Act. This bill would require by statute that a special counsel provide a report to Congress and the American people at the conclusion of an investigation. This is commonsense transparency and accountability under any administration, and I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in support of the bill.
So I take Mr. Barr at his word with respect to his answers to my questions and to those of my colleagues. I don’t believe that he would bow to any kind of pressure – even from the President – if he thought that there were a problem with the legality, constitutionality or ethics of an issue.
I believe that Mr. Barr is an excellent nominee – you couldn’t ask for a more competent or more experienced individual for the job. Mr. Barr has demonstrated to us that he is his own person, and that he’s an independent individual with a strong commitment to the law and the Constitution.
Mr. Barr is a capable attorney, knowledgeable of the law, and honorable. He’s a straight shooter and an individual who is willing to engage in productive discussion with Congress, which is a key quality we want in the individual who will run the Justice Department.
Mr. Barr is a highly qualified individual that, I believe, will be a good steward of the Justice Department. I’m certain that he’ll uphold the law and the Constitution. Mr. Barr deserves our support, and I’ll vote to confirm him.