President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, William Barr, sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department this year criticizing a central prong of the special counsel's Russia investigation, attacking as "fatally misconceived" the idea the president could have obstructed justice, the AP reports. The memo, sent in June while Barr was in private practice and months before he was selected by Trump for the Justice Department job, could factor into his future confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee and may prompt questions about his ability to oversee the special counsel's investigation in an open-minded and impartial manner. Some Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, expressed alarm over the memo. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, the incoming Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he wasn't bothered by it though he noted he didn't agree with everything in it.
The document argues there could be disastrous consequences for the Justice Department and the presidency if special counsel Robert Mueller were to conclude that acts a president is legally permitted to take—whether firing an FBI director or giving direction on a case—could constitute obstruction because of a subjective determination that there was corrupt intent. "Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction," Barr wrote. "Apart from whether Mueller (has) a strong enough factual basis for doing so, Mueller's obstruction theory is fatally misconceived." The memo adds to a record of other statements from Barr over the last year or so about the Mueller investigation. Those include comments to a newspaper expressing concern that multiple members of the Mueller team had made political contributions to Democratic political candidates. (Click for more from Barr's 19-page memo.)