Senate panel approves Trump attorney general nominee

The vote now heads to the full Senate, where Barr is expected to be confirmed as soon as next week. American intelligence agencies and Mueller have said Russian Federation was the source of hacked material released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks during the campaign that was damaging to Democrat Hillary Clinton's presidential effort.

During the hearing, Democrats on the Committee expressed concern about a memo that Barr wrote past year that called the Mueller investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election "fatally misconceived".

Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said before the vote that he begged Barr to get back into public service because he has the kind of experience the country needs at this time.

William Barr, nominee to be USA attorney general, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 15.

Democrats have also criticized a memo Barr wrote to the Justice Department before his nomination in which he criticized Mueller's investigation for the way it was presumably looking into whether Trump had obstructed justice.

Patrick Leahy of Vermont called the "extraordinary circumstances" of 2019, as special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained 37 indictments on various charges during his investigation.

Democrats said they anxious about confirming Barr to return to the Justice Department - he already served as attorney general in the administration of former President George H.W. Bush - with less than an ironclad promise to release Mueller's findings.

"I think he reveres the law and the rule of law", Kennedy said. That, combined with Barr's sweeping view of executive power, prompted Leahy to vote no on Barr's nomination.

"I'm speaking to what I hope is the 60 percent in the middle that are saying, 'Give me the facts that I need to make a determination in this one particular instance - what happened.' And that's what our focus is", he said.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said he felt Barr was a "good person" and likened him to Jim Mattis - Trump's former defense secretary, who had a reputation for being independent and resigned from the administration amid disagreements with the president.

The top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, California Sen. Barr, meanwhile, scheduled several individual meetings with lawmakers, seeking to answer whatever outstanding questions they might have had.

"I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt", Barr said.