UPDATE 2-Trump’s Attorney General pick vows to shield Russia probe from politics

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr will pledge at his confirmation hearing to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 election campaign coordinated with Russia, according to prepared testimony released on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr attends a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

“On my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work,” Barr said in the prepared remarks ahead of two days of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee starting on Tuesday morning.

Barr, a former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, also will address his prior criticism of Mueller’s probe, telling members of the committee that a memo he sent last year that called the investigation “fatally misconceived” only outlined his concerns that Mueller might be misinterpreting one aspect of the law.

“The memo did not address – or in any way question – the Special Counsel’s core investigation,” Barr will tell the panel.

Mueller is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign and potential obstruction of justice.

Russia has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings that it meddled in the election, running an interference operation to spread disinformation and hacking political party emails. Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow and called Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt.”

Barr has broad support from Republicans who control the Senate, but some Democrats have questioned whether he is the best choice to serve as the top law enforcement officer in the United States at a time when Trump is battling multiple legal investigations.

Barr will emphasize his independence, telling lawmakers that he did not seek out the job and has not given Trump any assurances of loyalty.

“As Attorney General, my allegiance will be to the rule of law, the Constitution, and the American people,” he will say.

Barr said he has known Mueller professionally for 30 years and has confidence in his abilities.

“If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation,” Barr said in his written remarks.

Democrats have worried that Trump may try to quash Mueller’s findings when he concludes his work. Barr will tell lawmakers that he believes it is important that Congress and the public are informed of his results. “My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” he said.

Mueller’s investigation and other inquiries have clouded Trump’s two years in office. Mueller has secured more than 30 indictments and guilty pleas and has spawned at least four federal investigations.

Government ethics forms released publicly on Monday show that if confirmed, Barr will within 90 days divest his financial interests in multiple bonds, private funds and stocks including AT&T Inc, Bristol Myers Squib Co, Dominion Energy Inc, J.P. Morgan Co, Bank of America Corp, Altria Group Inc, Merck & Co Inc, and Pfizer Inc, among others.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Grant McCool

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