Biden AG pick will face tension over Barr’s special counsel appointment
Another partisan sticking point is emerging as President-elect Biden fills out his incoming cabinet: Special Counsel John Durham.
Less than one week after Attorney General William Barr confirmed that he had appointed Durham to special counsel status in his probe into origins of the 2016 Russia investigation, lawmakers have begun voicing how they want President-elect Biden’s attorney general nominee to respond.
Biden’s pick to lead the Justice Department will be the only one in public office with the ability to fire Durham or revoke his prosecutorial authority, meaning that whoever he selects as AG will likely face conflicting demands from both parties on the matter.
The attorney general only has the ability to fire a special counsel with cause, meaning that Durham would need to be found committing prosecutorial misconduct or having a conflict of interest to be removed.
Already, Senate Judiciary members on both sides of the aisle have begun speaking out about how they think the Durham matter should be handled.
“I think John Durham’s investigation is very important, and any attorney general who would impede that investigation or who would obstruct justice shouldn’t be confirmed,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) told The Hill.
“The public deserves to know what is going on here and they deserve to get all of the facts and information. The investigation needs to conclude but it needs to be allowed to conclude in a timely fashion,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) concurred.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hi.), meanwhile, slammed Barr’s decision and questioned why the incoming administration wouldn’t put a stop to such an inquiry.
“I think that is something that Barr was pursuing that has no basis. There’s no factual reason for that. And so why should the resources of the next attorney general go to something like that?” the Hawaii Democrat said.
Arguing that Durham’s appointment was not “warranted to begin with,” Hirono went on to denounce Barr’s decision to keep the move private until after the election.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was less opposed to the notion than Hirono to keeping Durham in his job, but admitted that he still expected the topic to be a huge source of debate once Biden had chosen an attorney general.
“It’s an appropriate area of questioning, but we should also avoid political interference in the questions of whether to investigate or end an investigation,” the Connecticut Democrat said.
“There have been multiple investigations of exactly the same topic that Durham [is investigating] and none of them has found anything, including the inspector general, which is the most recent and probably the most thorough,” he continued, referencing Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report.
“There’s a real question whether there’s any merit whatsoever here to an investigation that seems more a distraction.”
With Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) stepping down as the top-ranking Democrat on the influential panel, the top two members in contention to replace her are Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Durbin and Whitehouse are the No. 2 and 3 on the committee, respectively.
Neither immediately responded to The Post’s request for comment on where they stand regarding Durham’s investigation under a President Biden.
A Biden transition spokesperson did not respond to The Post’s request for comment on Durham’s appointment.
With Post wires