In her line of questioning, California Sen. Kamala Harris tried to draw out a situation in which attorney general nominee William Barr would not take the advice of career ethics officials if they advised him to recuse himself.
If it came down to a judgement call, Barr said he could ignore the advice of those officials — if he disagreed with that advice based on a “different judgement of the facts.”
Here’s how the exchange went down:
Harris: So my question is would it be appropriate to go against the advice of career ethics officials that have recommended recusal, and can you give an example of under what situation or scenario you would go against the recommendation that you recuse yourself?
Barr: Well there are different kinds of recusals. Some are mandated for example if you have a financial interest, but there are others that are judgment calls-
Harris: Let’s imagine it’s a judgment call, and the judgment by the career ethics officials in the agency are that you recuse yourself. Under what scenario would you not follow their recommendation.
Barr: If I disagreed with it.
Harris: And what would the basis of that disagreement be?
Barr: I came to a different judgement.
Harris: On what basis?
Barr: The facts.
Harris: Such as-
Barr: Such as whatever facts are relevant to the recusal.
Harris: What do you imagine that the facts would be that are relevant to the recusal?
Barr: They could innumerable. I mean, there a lot of, you know know for example, there’s a rule of necessity, like who else would be handling it-
Harris: Do you believe that would be a concern in this situation if you are- if the recommendation is that you recuse yourself from the Mueller investigation do you believe that would be a concern that there would be no one left to do the job?
Barr: No, I’m just saying well, in some context, there very well might be, because who is confirmed for what and who is in what position. But a part from that, it’s a judgment call, and the attorney general is the person who makes the judgement and that’s what the job entails.
Harris: As a general matter that’s true, but specifically in this issue, under what scenario would you imagine that you would not follow the recommendation of the career ethics officials in the Department of Justice to recuse yourself from the Mueller investigation.
Barr: If I disagreed with them.