This post has been updated.
President Trump’s attorney general nominee, William P. Barr, made two things abundantly clear Tuesday: He would release a summary of the Russia report “consistent with the law,” and he is really good friends with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
“I don’t know what, at the end of the day, what will be release-able,” Barr told Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) of Mueller’s report, saying it would be confidential and the attorney general would be responsible for putting out “certain information upon the conclusion of the investigation.”
It was a significant shift after Tuesday morning’s testimony, when Barr hedged when asked about publicly releasing the findings of the Russia investigation.
“It is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel’s work,” Barr said in his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.”
“Consistent with the law” is not, of course, a straightforward “yes." And it is a notable caveat as the White House gears up to potentially assert executive privilege to block parts of the Mueller report, elements of which Barr has previously written could be “fatally misconceived.”
Barr was asked four times in the first three hours of Tuesday’s confirmation hearing whether he would share the investigation’s findings with Congress.
“Consistent with regulations and the law, yes,” Barr told Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
“I am going to make as much information available as I can consistent with the rules and regulations that are part of the special counsel regulations,” Barr told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
“I’m in favor of as much transparency as there can be consistent with the rules and the law,” Barr told Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).
“That certainly is my goal and intent,” Barr told Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Barr later clarified his testimony to Feinstein.
“What I am saying is, my objective and goal is to get as much as I can of the information to Congress and the public,” Barr said. “I am going to try to get the information out there consistent with these regulations and to the extent I have discretion, I will exercise that discretion to do that.”
Apparently aware of Democratic concerns over his previous comments about the probe, Barr made sure to indirectly emphasize his friendship with the special counsel by referring to him at times by his first name.
“I will follow the special counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith,” Barr said on Tuesday. “And on my watch, Bob will be allowed to finish his work.”