William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, on Tuesday described a 2017 meeting with Trump about possibly representing him as a personal attorney.
At his Senate confirmation hearing, Barr detailed how the meeting came about.
David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, approached Barr, the nominee testified.
Barr responded that at the time, he “didn’t really want to take on this burden.” However, Barr said he went and met with Trump, to whom he gave his phone number and did not hear from until he called about the position of attorney general.
Read the full exchange:
Barr: “Yeah, so in June of 2017, middle of June, Ambassador David Friedman, who is the US Ambassador to Israel — who I didn’t know, I knew that he was top tier lawyer in New York, and apparently a friend of the President’s.
“He reached out to me and we talked one evening and he said that he — well, my understanding was, he was interested in finding lawyers that could augment the defense team. And failing that, he wanted to identify Washington lawyers who had, you know, broad experience, that — whose perspective might be useful to the President.
“And he asked me a number of questions like ‘What have you said about the President publicly?’ and ‘Do you have any conflicts?’ and so forth, and I told him that I didn’t think I could take this on, that I had just taken on a big corporate client that was very important to me and expected a lot of work, and I said at my point in life, I really didn’t want to take on this burden, and that I actually preferred the freedom to not have any representation of an individual but just say what I thought about anything without having to worry about that.
“And I said that I — my wife and I — were sort of looking forward to a bit of respite, and I didn’t want to stick my head into that meat grinder.
‘He asked me if I would nonetheless meet, you know, just briefly go over the next day to meet with the President. And I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go and meet with the President.’
“And he brought me over and was squeezing me in — it looked to me like it was before the morning staff meeting, because people were grouping by the door to get in, and I went in, and he was there, the ambassador was there, sat through the meeting.
“It was a very brief meeting where essentially the President wanted to know — He said, ‘Oh, you know Bob Mueller, how well do you know Bob Mueller?’ And I told him how well I knew Bob Mueller and how the Barrs and Muellers, we’re good friends and would be good friends when this is all over, and so forth.
“And he was interested in that, wanted to know, you know, what I thought about Mueller’s integrity and so forth and so on.
“And I said, ‘Bob is a straight shooter and should be dealt with as such.’
And he said something to the effect like, ‘So are you envisioning some role here?’ And I said, ‘You know, actually Mr. President, right now is like, I couldn’t do it. You know I just, my personal and my professional obligations are such that I’m unable to do it.’
“So he asked me for my phone number, I gave it to him, and I never heard from him again, until …”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham: “Well, I tried that once, you did better –“
Barr: “Well I didn’t hear from him until later, about something different, which was the attorney general position.”