Attorney General Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing Mueller probe

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By Julia Ainsley  with NBC News Politics
Attorney General Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing Mueller probe

WASHINGTON — New Attorney General William Barr will maintain oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and not recuse himself as his predecessor did, a Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Barr's decision came after ethics officials at the Justice Department concluded that he should not recuse himself, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

"Following Attorney General Barr's confirmation, senior career ethics officials advised that Attorney General Barr should not recuse himself from the Special Counsel's investigation. Consistent with that advice, Attorney General Barr has decided not to recuse," said Kupec.

As attorney general, Barr has the power over funding for Mueller's probe and he will ultimately decide how much of the investigation's findings he can share with Congress.

Mueller is expected to conclude his investigation within the coming weeks, according to reporting by NBC News and other news outlets.

Barr's predecessor, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the investigation, citing his ties to the Trump presidential campaign, which Mueller has been investigating for possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

During his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr refused to promise Democrats he would recuse himself from his role of overseeing the Mueller investigation.

Democrats raised concern about a memo Barr wrote in 2018, laying out why President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey was not obstruction of justice.

Former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who filled the post between Sessions and Barr, sought the advice of the ethics officials at the Justice Department, and ultimately rejected their conclusion when he decided not to recuse himself.

The advice of ethics officials is not binding, but most prosecutors who fear their participation in a case may create an appearance of a conflict of interest consult the ethics office when deciding whether or not to recuse.