William Barr, President Trump's nominee for attorney general, disclosed on Monday that he has discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe with Vice President Mike Pence, although he insisted he neither provided legal advice to the White House nor received any confidential information from Pence.
Barr also defended the unsolicited memorandum he sent to the Justice Department last year that was criticial of the Russia probe, explaining that it was narrow in scope and based on potentially incomplete information.
The revelations were contained in Barr's written responses to questions from senators considering his nomination to permanently fill the role currently held by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who has served since November following the resignation of Jeff Sessions.
"The Vice President and I are acquainted, and since the spring of 2017, we have had occasional conversations (sometimes joined by his chief of staff) on a variety of subjects, including policy, personnel, and other issues," Barr wrote. "Our conversations have included, at times, general discussion of the Special Counsel’s investigation in which I gave my views on such matters as Bob Mueller’s high integrity and various media reports. In these conversations, I did not provide legal advice, nor, to the best of my recollection, did he provide confidential information."
Barr added that he did not substantively discuss the Mueller probe in his conversations with Pence, Trump, or other White House officials as his nomination was under consideration.
He said Trump summoned him to the White House in early December, following the state funeral of former President George H.W. Bush.
"On December 5, 2018, following President Bush’s funeral, President Trump asked me to stop by the White House," Barr wrote. "We spoke about a variety of issues, and were joined for much of the discussion by then-White House Counsel Emmet Flood and Vice President Pence. We have also spoken via phone several times as part of the selection and nomination process for the Attorney General position."
He continued: "In all of these conversations, there was no discussion of the substance of the Special Counsel’s investigation. The President has not asked me my views about any aspect of the investigation, and he has not asked me about what I would do about anything in the investigation."
Barr's Senate confirmation hearings ended earlier this month with few fireworks, and Barr appeared likely to sail to confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate. Even so, some Democrats sounded the alarm, with Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal charging that Barr had indicated he would exploit legal "loopholes" to hide Mueller's final report from the public and to resist subpoenas against the White House.
"I will commit to providing as much information as I can, consistent with the regulations," Barr had told Blumenthal when asked if he would ensure that Mueller's full report was publicly released.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has said he was satisfied that Barr was the "right man for the job." He added that Democrats had asked appropriate questions -- in stark contrast to what he called the "sham" that unfolded during the confirmation hearings of now-Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
During the hearing, Barr's past comments about the Mueller investigation attracted scrutiny, including an unsolicited memo he sent the Justice Department last year criticizing the special counsel's inquiry into whether Trump had sought to obstruct justice.
In the memo, Barr wrote, among other comments, that “Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”
In his written responses Monday, Barr addressed the memo, and noted that Trump "did not ask me my views about any aspect of the investigation, and he did not ask me about what I would do about anything in the investigation."
Barr said the memo was based on hypothetical and incomplete information and did not necessary represent his final views on the Mueller probe or the legality of various tools it could employ.
"My memorandum was narrow in scope," Barr wrote in response to a question from Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. "It was premised on an assumption based on public accounts – which the memorandum acknowledged may be incorrect – that the Special Counsel’s basis for questioning the President was that the firing of former FBI Director Comey constituted obstruction under a specific statute. ... In other words, the memorandum assumed, for purposes of analysis, that the Special Counsel’s sole predicate for interviewing the President was the single obstruction theory that it was addressing."
Barr added, "The memorandum did not address whether the President could be questioned under any of the other possible obstruction theories that have been publicly discussed in connection with the Special Counsel’s investigation, or any other theories of liability the Special Counsel may be pursuing."
The president also did not "comment on my memorandum," Barr added.
"On November 27, 2018, I met with the President and then-White House Counsel Emmet Flood to interview for the position of Attorney General," Barr wrote. "After the President offered me the job, the conversation turned to issues that could arise during the confirmation process. I recall mentioning that I had written a memorandum regarding a legal issue that could arise in the Special Counsel’s investigation, and that the memorandum could result in questioning during my confirmation hearing. I do not remember exactly what I said, but I recall offering a brief, one-sentence description of the memorandum."
As for Mueller, who is leading the investigation that Trump has derided frequently as a "witch hunt," Barr said he sang the former FBI Director's praises to the president.
"I explained that I had a longstanding personal and professional relationship with Special Counsel Mueller and advised the President that he was a person of significant experience and integrity," Barr wrote.
Fox News' Bill Mears contributed to this report.