December 20, 2018 / 3:25 PM / 5 months ago

Top Senate Democrat says Trump's attorney general pick should not be nominated

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) listens to remarks in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer, on Thursday called on President Donald Trump to find a new nominee for attorney general, saying Trump’s current pick cannot be put in charge of the special investigation into alleged election meddling by Russia.

“Since Mr. Barr hasn’t been formally nominated yet, the president must immediately reconsider and find another nominee who is free of conflicts and will carry out the duties of the office impartially,” Schumer said of William Barr.

Trump said earlier this month he would nominate Barr, a former U.S. attorney general, to return to the position. Since Jeff Sessions left the post last month, Matthew Whitaker has acted as attorney general and also attracted Democrats’ criticism.

Schumer said Barr was disqualified by a memo he wrote criticizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in U.S. elections, which he would oversee as attorney general. The memo reveals that Barr is “fatally conflicted,” Schumer said in a statement.

Earlier on Thursday, CNN reported that Barr wrote in a June 2018 memo to senior Justice Department officials that Mueller “should not be able to demand that the President submit to an interrogation about alleged obstruction.”

In the memo Barr said that Trump’s interactions with former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump later fired, would not constitute obstruction of justice, according to CNN, which said the memo was provided to lawmakers late Wednesday.

Russia has denied meddling in the election. Trump has denied there was any collusion between Moscow and his campaign, and has repeatedly criticized the Mueller investigation.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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