U.S. President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, William Barr, on Tuesday pledged to shield the special counsel's Russia probe from political pressures and took issue with Trump's labeling the investigation of his inner circle's contacts with Moscow as a "witch hunt."
"I don't believe [special counsel Robert] Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt," Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing to become America's top law enforcement officer, adding that he intends to let the probe run its course and that the results should be made known to the public and Congress.
Barr said the special counsel could only be terminated for good cause and that "it's unimaginable" that Mueller would "ever do anything that gave rise to good cause."
Democrats repeatedly stressed the importance of independence to the role of attorney general and noted Trump's penchant for lashing out at the Justice Department.
"I believe it is important that the next attorney general be able to strongly resist pressure, whether from the administration or Congress," California Democrat Dianne Feinstein said. "He must have the integrity, the strength and the fortitude to tell the president 'no' regardless of the consequences."
"If confirmed, the president is going to expect you to his bidding. I can almost guarantee he'll cross the line at some point," Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said.
"I can truly be independent," Barr insisted. "I'm in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences ... I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong."