January 2, 2019 / 11:34 PM / in 5 months

Senate panel sets confirmation hearing for attorney general nominee

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice building is seen in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday it would hold confirmation hearings on Jan. 15 and 16 for Attorney General nominee William Barr, who has come under fire from Democrats for his criticism of the special counsel’s Russia probe.

If confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Barr would take over from Matthew Whitaker, who has been serving as acting attorney general since President Donald Trump forced out Jeff Sessions in November.

The committee’s statement did not give details on the planned hearings.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said last month that a memo Barr wrote criticizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in U.S. elections should disqualify him from serving as attorney general.

Barr wrote in the 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,” CNN has reported.

As attorney general, Barr would oversee the Russia investigation.

Trump has called the probe, which is examining any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a witch hunt.

Barr previously served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under late President George H.W. Bush.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by David Alexander and Peter Cooney

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