ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
51°
Mostly Cloudy
H 54° L 37°
  • cloudy-day
    51°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 54° L 37°
  • cloudy-day
    54°
    Today
    Mostly Cloudy. H 54° L 37°
  • rain-day
    54°
    Tomorrow
    Rain. H 54° L 45°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

National Govt & Politics
Trump Justice pick likely to be queried on Mueller comments
Close

Trump Justice pick likely to be queried on Mueller comments

Trump Justice pick likely to be queried on Mueller comments
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Scott Applewhite, File
This undated photo provided by Time Warner shows William Barr. Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, has emerged as a top contender for that job in President Donald Trump's Cabinet, two people familiar with the president's selection process said Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (Time Warner via AP)

Trump Justice pick likely to be queried on Mueller comments

President Donald Trump on Friday picked former Attorney General William Barr to once again serve as America's top law enforcement official. But while his experience and mainstream background may boost his prospects for confirmation, Democrats are raising alarms about his comments on the Russia investigation and Hillary Clinton.

Barr has expressed concerns about political donations made by prosecutors on special counsel Robert Mueller's team and has supported calls for an investigation into a uranium deal approved while Clinton was secretary of state, a pet issue of Trump supporters.

It's not clear whether Barr, if confirmed, would take office in time to shape the Mueller investigation, which has shown signs of being in its final stages. But even if it wraps up before he takes office, Barr would be in a position to influence prosecutions stemming from the probe, as well as deal with other politically sensitive cases, such as responding to referrals from the House's new Democratic majority.

Barr, 68, would succeed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump forced out after constant heckling because he had stepped aside from overseeing the Russia investigation. Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, was elevated to acting attorney general and took control of Mueller's investigation.

Barr's confirmation would create uncertainty about the future of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversaw the Mueller investigation before Whitaker's appointment. Frequently, new deputies are also appointed when there's a new attorney general.

Barr's appointment could bring more stability to the Justice Department. Sessions' tenure was marked by the incessant attacks from Trump, and Whitaker's elevation was also controversial. Questions were raised about Whitaker's credentials, critical comments he had made about the Mueller investigation before joining the Justice Department and his involvement with a company that was accused of misleading consumers and is under investigation by the FBI.

Barr was attorney general between 1991 and 1993 at the same time Mueller oversaw the department's criminal division. Barr later worked as a corporate general counsel and is currently of counsel at a prominent international law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Trump called Barr "one of the most respected jurists in the country."

"During his tenure, he demonstrated an unwavering adherence to the rule of law," Trump said. "There's no one more capable or qualified for this role."

Confirmation hearings are unlikely before January, when Republicans will have a 53-47 majority, leaving Democrats powerless to block the nomination unless four Republicans break ranks.

The next chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Barr's pick an "outstanding decision" and pledged to "do everything in my power" to quickly push the nomination through the committee and onto the Senate floor for confirmation.

But the Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said Barr must promise that Mueller's investigation can proceed unimpeded and that Mueller's final report will be made available to Congress and the public immediately after it is completed.

Democrats have begun pointing to Barr's weigh-ins on hot-button investigative matters.

In November 2017, Barr told the New York Times that there was more basis to investigate the uranium deal approved while Clinton led the State Department than potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

"To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility," Barr said.

He told the newspaper that there "is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation," but he cautioned that an investigation shouldn't be launched just because a president wants it.

In a May 2017 op-ed for The Washington Post, Barr defended Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, an action Mueller has been examining for possible obstruction of justice. He was quoted two months later in a Post story as expressing concern that members of Mueller's team had contributed to Democratic candidates.

"In my view, prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party," Barr said. "I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group."

In an episode that may hold parallels to the current special counsel investigation, Barr was attorney general when Bush on Christmas Eve 1992 pardoned six former Reagan administration officials — including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger — in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Barr said in a 2001 University of Virginia oral history interview that he supported the pardons.

"I certainly did not oppose any of them," Barr said. "I favored the broadest— There were some people arguing just for Weinberger, and I said, 'No, in for a penny, in for a pound.'"

Those who worked with Barr previously were quick to tout Barr's qualifications.

"I think the president has chosen a superb nominee who is precisely what the Department of Justice needs now, which is a steady hand," said Joseph diGenova, a Trump supporter and former U.S. attorney.

Paul McNulty, who worked at the Justice Department under Barr and a decade later became deputy attorney general, recalled him as decisive on the need for a strong federal response after the riots in Los Angeles following the acquittals on state charges of police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. He praised Barr's "boldness and thoughtfulness" in sending in the FBI to deal with a 1991 Alabama prison riot involving dozens of Cuban detainees.

Barr, who was acting attorney general at the time of the Talladega prison riots, has said he overruled a Bureau of Prisons plan to respond and instead directed the FBI to go in, telling officials there'd be no concessions and to prepare for a hostage rescue situation.

McNulty, now president of Pennsylvania's Grove City College, said Barr "has an extraordinary strategic mind so that as he thinks through the issues factually, he has a remarkable ability to then think about steps forward — what plan of action makes the most sense in light of these facts and these circumstances."

___

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller in Washington and Darlene Superville in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.

___

On Twitter, follow Michael Balsamo at https://twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 , Eric Tucker at https://twitter.com/etuckerAP and Chad Day at https://twitter.com/etuckerAP .

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

News

  • After starting the 2019 fiscal year with $100 billion in red ink, Uncle Sam added more than double that in the month of November, as the Treasury Department reported Thursday that the federal government ran a deficit last month of $204.9 billion, leaving the deficit at over $300 billion just two months into the new fiscal year. “The deficit has never been this high when the economy was this strong,” said the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a watchdog group which has repeatedly complained about the lack of action in Congress and the White House about rising deficits. “Rarely have deficits risen when the economy is booming. And never in modern U.S. history have deficits been so high outside of a war or recession,” the group said on Thursday. Compared to a year ago, the deficit for October and November of 2018 was $104 billion more than in 2017. White House budget experts have predicted the 2019 deficit could come close to $1 trillion, the highest since 2012. November Treasury deficit $204.9 billion vs deficit of $138.5 billion prior — Michael Underhill (@M_D_Underhill) December 13, 2018 Looking at November 2018 and November 2017, revenues were down slightly from a year ago, as the feds brought in almost $206 billion last month, compared to $208 billion in 2017. Spending was up sharply, at almost $411 billion in November, compared to $347 billion a year ago. One area where more revenue came in to the feds in November was in tariffs and customs duties, as Uncle Sam took in $5.5 billion; that figure was $3.2 billion a year ago. But even if those numbers continue up – as President Trump has predicted with his aggressive trade actions – it won’t come close to filling a growing tide of red ink. The latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office are close to what the White House has been predicting – a budget deficit which will come close to $1 trillion this year – but the CBO believes the deficit will go over $1 trillion after that, for a number of years. In a new report released hours before the updated deficit figures, the CBO again offered up a number of options to reduce the deficit, making the case that something must change. “Since 2007, federal debt held by the public has more than doubled in relation to the size of the economy, and it will keep growing significantly if the large annual budget deficits projected under current law come to pass,” the CBO wrote. But there has been little appetite in recent years among Republicans in the Congress to make dramatic changes – either in spending or revenues to change the direction of the deficit.
  • Hemp is about to get the nod from the federal government that marijuana, its cannabis plant cousin, craves. A provision of the farm bill that received final approval in Congress on Wednesday removes hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and treats the low-THC version of the cannabis plant like any other agricultural crop. THC is the cannabis compound that gives pot its high. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law next week. The change sets the stage for greater expansion in an industry already seeing explosive growth because of growing demand for cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp that many see as a way to better health. Federal legalization could triple the overall hemp market to $2.5 billion by 2022, with $1.3 billion of those sales from hemp-derived CBD products, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis market research firm. 'It's a huge deal because it's a domino effect. Banks can get involved now and if banks get involved, then credit card processors get involved — and if that happens, then big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart get into it,' said Sean Murphy, a New Frontier data analyst who's tracked the industry since its infancy in 2015. 'All these big players are going to come in.' Hemp, like marijuana, already is legal in some states. Approval at the national level brings a host of benefits that the pot industry has yet to see. Hemp farmers will be able to buy crop insurance, apply for loans and grants, and write off their business expenses on their taxes like any other farmer. And those who sell dried flower or CBD-infused products made from hemp can now ship across state lines without fear of prosecution as long as they are careful not to run afoul of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Many did so before, but always looked over their shoulder because the law was unclear. Michelle and Scott Fields, who run an organic hemp farm outside Grants Pass, Oregon, include a detailed letter to law enforcement in each package they ship that explains the dried flowers inside may look a lot like pot, but actually can't get anyone high. 'Probably the best part of this is that everybody can take a sigh of relief and not worry about that gray area anymore,' said Michelle Fields, who worked in real estate until three years ago, when she and her husband started Fields of Hemp LLC. Hemp looks like marijuana to the untrained eye, but it contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Federal legislation passed four years ago cracked open the door for some farming by allowing states to create hemp pilot programs or to conduct research on hemp cultivation. Twenty-three states issued 3,544 licenses in 2018, said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a nonprofit hemp advocacy group. At the same time, the total market for hemp — from textiles to seeds to CBD oil — has grown from a few million dollars in 2015 to $820 million today and about a third of that is from hemp-derived CBD, Murphy said. Large companies already experimenting in the hemp space anticipated the policy change and are poised to cash in. Vitality, based in Eureka, Montana, is a large U.S. hemp producer and grew 20,000 acres this year. The company last week announced a merger with the Canadian CBD extractor and marketer LiveWell. The new company aspires to become one of the largest hemp production and CBD extraction companies in North America, producing more than 6,600 pounds of CBD isolate (3,000 kilograms) a day by mid-2019, according to a company statement on the deal. Isolate is a crystalline powder form of CBD and is the purest product possible. The odorless, tasteless powder is commonly sold in one gram jars that retail for $35 to $60 each. 'We were at the right place at the right time,' David Rendimonti, president and CEO for LiveWell, said in a phone interview. 'You're in a high-value, high-growth market. It's an amazing opportunity and now you have something that's really going to explode.' Proponents say CBD offers a plethora of health benefits, from relieving pain to taming anxiety. Scientists caution, however, there have been few comprehensive clinical studies on how CBD affects humans. It's unclear if, or how, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will react to hemp legalization. The agency said it does not comment on pending legislation. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said in the past that CBD products will be treated like any other products that make unproven claims to shrink cancer tumors or other statements. The FDA has sent warning letters to some companies marketing CBD. The new bill retains the FDA's authority over products that contain CBD. 'That's the big question mark,' Murphy said. 'The market's going to grow, the market's going to expand, but it's going to come down to what the FDA is going to do about it.' Individual states can also make and enforce rules banning hemp or CBD even though it's no longer considered a controlled substance — another wild card. Yet there's no question legalization means things will get a lot easier for small farmers. Clarenda Stanley-Anderson and her husband, Malcolm Anderson Sr., lost two acres of hemp they grew under a North Carolina pilot program when Hurricane Florence barreled through in September. They had no crop insurance because they couldn't get it when hemp was listed as a federally controlled substance. The Andersons plan to plant 15 acres this spring and put up greenhouses. They will buy crop insurance and have just signed a contract to provide their dried flower to a Denver company that will extract CBD from it. The growth potential in the industry has Clarenda Stanley-Anderson excited and optimistic. 'It's all about the power of green, so when you look at it from that standpoint, it's going to be an industry that's here to stay,' she said in a phone interview from her home in Liberty, North Carolina. 'The possibilities are endless.' _____ Gillian Flaccus is a member of AP's marijuana beat team. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus. Find complete AP marijuana coverage at http://apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana.
  • Maria Butina, the Russian woman who used her interest in gun rights and her connections with members of the Republican Party to try to gain influence in the highest reaches of the U.S. government, reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors Thursday to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as a Russian agent in the U.S. Part of that deal includes an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors on other matters, according to court documents released Thursday. Butina, who faces a maximum of five years in prison, entered the plea which acknowledged that she failed to register with the Justice Department as a Russian agent as is required by U.S. law.  Prosecutors allege she tried to make contacts in the US at the direction of both a “Russian official” and at least one other person. Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician, is believed to be that Russian official. Click here to read Butina’s federal plea deal.
  • Kelsey Berreth was last seen on Thanksgiving Day, captured on surveillance video entering a grocery store with what appears to be her 1-year-old daughter in a baby carrier. Weeks later, investigators don't know what happened to the 29-year-old Colorado mother. Her fiance has told police the couple, who did not live together, met sometime on the holiday to exchange their child. After that, police said the only signs of Berreth were text messages from her cellphone. Her disappearance has mystified her family and police leading a multi-state search. 'Kelsey, we just want you home,' her mother, Cheryl Berreth pleaded at a press conference Monday. 'Call us if you can. We won't quit looking.' The woman's fiance, Patrick Frazee, told police she last texted him on Nov. 25, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Her employer, an aviation company, got a text message from Berreth's phone the same day, saying the flight instructor planned to take the following week off. Police later received data indicating Berreth's phone was near Gooding, Idaho, that same day, nearly 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from her home in Woodland Park, Colorado. A police investigation was opened Dec. 2 after Cheryl Berreth asked for a welfare check of her daughter. The Woodland Park Police Department has classified the disappearance as a missing person case. The department did not immediately respond to a request for an update on the investigation on Thursday. Investigators who went to the woman's home found some cinnamon rolls in Berreth's kitchen and both of her cars still in place outside the home. Woodland Park Police Chief Miles De Young said the company where Berreth worked, Doss Aviation, has accounted for all their planes and police have no reason to believe she used someone else's plane for a flight. In the surveillance video released this week, Berreth is seen entering a Woodland Park grocery store at 12:05 p.m. Her hair is pinned back in a bun, and she is carrying a purse and a baby carrier mostly covered by a blanket. She then pushes a shopping cart into the store, perching the carrier on top. Police have not said what time she and Frazee met to exchange their daughter. The child remains with her father, police said. Frazee's attorney, Jeremy Loew, said in a written statement Wednesday that his client has been interviewed by police and provided investigators with a cheek swab for DNA along with his cell phone. Loew said neither he nor his client will comment further 'as he does not want to impede law enforcement's investigation.' Frazee missed Monday's press conference where Cheryl Berreth made her plea for information about her daughter, but Loew said his client only learned of the event an hour before it began and would have attended with more notice. 'Mr. Frazee hopes and prays for Ms. Berreth's return,' Loew said. 'Mr. Frazee will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and continue to parent the child he shares with Ms. Berreth.' Berreth's family has continued to urge people to share a featuring two smiling photos of the slight woman. 'Kelsey loves her God,' Cheryl Berreth said at the press conference. 'She loves her family and friends and she loves her job. She's reliable, considerate and honest.' According to public records, Kelsey Berreth previously lived in Washington state. In 2016, she moved to Woodland Park, a mountain community of about 7,500 people two hours south of Denver. 'She doesn't run off and someone knows where she is at,' her mother said. ___ Associated Press writers James Anderson and Colleen Slevin contributed to this report.
  • A Southwest flight bound for Dallas returned to Seattle when airline officials realized a human heart was left on board.  >> Read more trending news  The “life-critical cargo shipment” intended for a Seattle, hospital was supposed to be removed from the plane’s previous flight Dec. 9, KTVT reported. “We made the decision to return to Seattle as it was absolutely necessary to deliver the shipment to its destination in the Seattle area as quickly as possible,” a Southwest official told Newsweek. The heart would only be good for medical use within a certain amount of time. It’s believed the heart made it back in time, KTVT reported. However, it is unclear for whom it was intended. Seattle-area hospitals said they were not involved. Organ-procurement organizations in Washington and California said they never use commercial flights for heart transplants. The plane was taken out of service for an unrelated mechanical issue. Passengers were delayed for about five hours, WFAA reported. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says a looming government shutdown would be 'stupid' but might be unavoidable if Democrats refuse to support President Donald Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico. The California Republican said Thursday that even if House Republicans cobble together enough votes to approve the wall, the plan is likely to fail in the Senate. Democrats in that chamber have vowed to block it from receiving the necessary 60 votes. McCarthy said he thinks 'going into a shutdown is stupid,' but he offered no immediate plan ahead of a Dec. 21 deadline. The House adjourned for six days after his remarks. McCarthy's comments put him at odds with Trump, who said this week he'd be 'proud to shut down the government' in the name of border security.