William Barr, former U.S. attorney general
President Donald Trump said Friday he will nominate William Barr as the next attorney general – putting in place a seasoned Washington veteran who defended his decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey.
Barr served alongside special counsel Mueller when he served as President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general fro 1991 to 1993. As a commentator has bolstered some of Trump’s positions – including saying Hillary Clinton’s involvement in a uranium deal was as worthy of investigation as special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Trump hailed Barr’s credentials before taking off for Kansas City on Friday – after Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has drawn fire for his business practices and for his statements slamming the Russia probe.
‘I want to confirm that Bill Barr, one of the most respected jurists in the country, former attorney general under the Bush administration, a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man,’ Trump said.
President Donald Trump told reporters Friday he was nominating Barr to be the next attorney general, a position that requires Senate confirmation
‘I did not know him well until recently when I went through the process of looking at people. And he was my first choice from Day One.’
The president added: ‘Respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats. He will be nominated for the United States attorney general. And hopefully that process will go very quickly, and I think it will go very quickly.’
Trump was set to appear in Kansas City along with Whitaker, who the Washington Post reported wanted the job.
But Whitaker’s prospects for confirmation to the post on a permanent basis dimmed even in the GOP-controlled Senate amid a flurry of damaging reports, including his work for an inventions company that paid a $25 million fine, and a series of TV appearances where he tore into the Mueller probe.
SECOND TIME AROUND: In this Nov. 26, 1991, file photo, President George H.W Bush, right, and William Barr wave after Barr was sworn in as the new Attorney General of the United States at a Justice Department ceremony in Washington. President Donald Trump said Friday he will nominate William Barr, former President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general, to serve in the same role
His critics promoted the theory that he put in place Whitaker in order to rein in or even shut down the Russia investigation as it continues to ensnare members of Trump’s inner circle. Whitaker had not held senior government position before he was put in place as Sessions’ chief of staff before his firing.
Trump’s announcement comes amid some signs that Mueller is nearing the end of his 19-month investigation. On Friday, prosecutors are expected to turn in a court filing laying out the ‘lies’ that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort told in violation of his cooperation agreement following his conviction on corruption charges.
Trump launched a Twitter tirade Friday in advance of his announcement.
‘Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye [sic] the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of “legal” at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt,’ the president tweeted at 6:18 a.m.
Barr defended Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker (L) walks with Senior Adviser to the President Jared Kushner as they depart with U.S. President Donald Trump from the White House on December 7, 2018 in Washington, DC
In addition to his specific comments on current investigations, Barr has defended the power of the president. In a 1989 memorandum from when he was assistant attorney general, Barr outlined ‘Common Legislative Encroachments on Executive Branch Authority.’
It states that ‘The President, as the head o f a unitary executive branch, has a duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” U.S. Const, art. II, § 3, to coordinate and supervise his subordinates, and to ensure that the executive branch speaks with one voice.’
The Barr memo continues: ‘The President’s power to remove subordinates is essential to carrying out these responsibilities.’
The administration has refused to say whether or not Whitaker underwent an ethics review to determine whether he should recuse himself from the Russia probe – something Trump repeatedly bashed his predecessor Jeff Sessions for doing, following reports of his own Russia contacts during the campaign.
Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, had emerged as a top contender for that job in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
Barr ran the DOJ between 1991 and 1993, serving in the department at the same as Robert Mueller did
The appointment of a new attorney general comes at a precarious time as special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which the department oversees, is showing signs of entering its final stages.
Barr was attorney general between 1991 and 1993, serving in the Justice Department at the same as Mueller did. Barr later worked as a corporate general counsel and is currently at a prominent international law firm, Kirland & Ellis. He was also a top executive at Verizon Communications.
If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced out by Trump in November and who infuriated the president by stepping aside from the Russia investigation. Sessions’ decision helped set in motion Mueller’s appointment.
Democrats would presumably want reassurances that Barr, who as attorney general would be in position to oversee Mueller’s investigation, would not do anything to interfere with the probe.
An attorney general opposed to the investigation could theoretically move to cut funding or block certain investigative steps. But depending on how long the confirmation process takes, it is not clear how much of the investigation would remain by the time a new attorney general takes office.
Trump dismissed AG Jeff Sessions 30 days ago, creating a vacuum in the department at a time when Robert Mueller’s Russia probe is heating up
Sessions’s chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, is serving as acting AG but has become a lightning rod because of his business ventures before he joined the Trump administration
‘What I have said, without mentioning Mr. Barr – I’ve said, the best thing the administration can do is to get somebody who had majority support from Republicans and Democrats alike for attorney general. Those are the best attorneys general,’ said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings on a nominee.
Barr, he said, could fit that bill.
Still, while in private practice, Barr has occasionally weighed in on hot-button investigative matters in ways that could prompt concerns among Democrats.
He told The New York Times in November 2017, in a story about Sessions directing his prosecutors to look into actions related to Trump rival Hillary Clinton, that ‘there is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation’ – though Barr also said one should not be opened just because a president wants it.
The late President George H.W. Bush’s expansive state funeral ceremonies this week have cast his presidency in a new, more favorable light, opening the door for his former senior aides to share in his image-rehabilitation
He said there was more basis to investigate a uranium deal approved while Clinton was secretary of state in the Obama administration than potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
‘To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility,’ Barr told the newspaper.
He also wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in May 2017 defending Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, one of the actions Mueller has been examining for possible obstruction of justice.
The Comey firing is part of a probe of potential obstruction of justice.
Barr has been on a White House short list of contenders for several weeks, said a person with knowledge of internal discussions who was not authorized to speak publicly. But some inside the White House were concerned that Barr was too aligned with establishment GOP forces.