William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, on Tuesday said that he can “conceive of situations where” President Trump’s Justice Department could arrest journalists if they “hurt the country” with their reporting.
“I want to ask you something that I asked Attorney General [Jeff Sessions],” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said during Barr’s Senate confirmation hearing. “If you’re confirmed, will the Justice Department jail reporters for doing their jobs?”
“I can conceive of situations where as a last resort and a news organization has run through a red flag or something like that, knows that they’re putting out stuff that will hurt the country,” Barr said, “there might be a situation where someone would be held in contempt.”
Spencer Ackerman, a national security reporter for The Daily Beast, called Barr’s answer “disturbing.”
Disturbing answer by Barr on jailing reporters. Says he can conceive of circumstances where "as a last resort" & where a news organization "knows they are putting stuff out where they’re hurting the country," which puts the legal onus on publishers.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) January 15, 2019
Even just having to ask the *question* is chilling: “If you’re confirmed, will the Justice Department jail reporters for doing their jobs?” https://t.co/P3fiu97QAC
— Kelley Calkins (@kelleycalkins) January 15, 2019
Watch the exchange, below:
Asked if the Justice Dept. would "jail reporters for doing their jobs," AG nominee Barr says, "I can conceive of situations where, as a last resort, and where a news organization has run through a red flag…there could be situation where someone would be held in contempt." pic.twitter.com/NyZ7JP7rGi
— ABC News (@ABC) January 15, 2019
Barr also faced questions about how he would oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Barr told senators he would not be “bullied” into interfering with the Mueller investigation.
“I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong,” Barr said. “By anybody. Whether it be editorial boards, or Congress or the President. I’m going to do what I think is right.”
Barr also pledged to release Mueller’s findings to the public under the proper regulations.