William Barr's nomination as President Donald Trump's attorney general was in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Barr's past commentary on special counsel Robert Mueller 's investigation was front and center.
Here are some key moments from the hearing.
Won't commit to recuse if ethics officials recommend it.
The big question hanging over this hearing is not so much whether Democrats can defeat Barr's nomination - which seems unlikely - but instead whether they can extract key statements or even concessions.
Perhaps the biggest concession would be parameters under which Barr would recuse himself from oversight of Mueller's probe. Jeff Sessions recused himself, given his role on the Trump campaign, and ethics officials recommended that acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker recuse himself, based on his past commentary critical of Mueller. Whitaker has not recused himself.
Some Democrats have said Barr should recuse himself, based on his criticism of the probe, but Barr wasn't making any early promises. When asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., whether he would abide by ethics officials' advice, unlike Whitaker, Barr wouldn't commit to it.
"I will seek the advice of the career ethics personnel, but under the regulations, I make the decision as the head of the agency as to my own recusal," Barr said.
Earlier, though, Barr said that Sessions was, in fact, correct to recuse himself.
"I don't have all the facts, but I think he did the right thing by recusing himself," Barr told Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the committee's chairman.
Importantly, that recusal is what soured the relationship between Sessions and Trump. Now Barr says he agrees that it was the right call. That might not mean he'll recuse himself, but it's a notable departure from the Trump line. One wonders what the president, who routinely decried Sessions's recusal and called it a lack of loyalty, thinks of that statement. (Barr, notably, said in his opening statement that Trump sought no promises about such things - either explicitly or implicitly.)
"I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt."
Speaking of ways in which Barr splits with Trump, here's another one Graham extracted: Barr doesn't think Mueller's investigation is a "witch hunt."
"I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt," Barr said when Graham asked him that direct question.
Barr is both a critic of aspects of the Mueller probe and Mueller's friend, which is a compelling dichotomy. He has taken care, though, to emphasize that his criticisms aren't about Mueller as a person.
On Trump: "I will not be bullied."
Trump's criticisms of Sessions and his heavy-handed comments when other government officials run afoul of him - combined with Barr's expansive view of executive authority - have led to questions about whether he would be Trump's stooge, effectively.
But Barr sought to argue that he is in a unique position, as someone in the twilight of his career, to be completely independent.
"I feel I'm in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences. In the sense that I can be truly independent," Barr said.
He added: "I had a very good life. I have a very good life. I love it. But I also want to help in this circumstance, and I am not going to do anything that I think is wrong, and I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong. ... I'm going to do what I think is right."
Will investigate Strzok, others.
Graham started the hearing by saying he hoped Barr would "right the ship over there" at the Justice Department, but it wasn't immediately clear to what he was referring.
Then Graham made it clear: To begin his questioning, he brought up Peter Strzok's and Lisa Page's anti-Trump texts - among other allegedly biased misdeeds within the Justice Department - and then explicitly asked whether Barr would look into all of it.
Barr's response: "Yes, Mr. Chairman. . . . I was shocked when I saw them."
It seemed as if Barr was acceding to Graham's request to open a specific inquiry, which is notable, given that part of the opposition to Barr is rooted in his saying it is okay for a president to request specific investigations, even into his political opponents (as long as the decision is made on the merits).