Meet Ses­sions’ re­place­ment

At­tor­ney gen­eral pick de­fended Trump’s fir­ing of for­mer FBI di­rec­tor


WASH­ING­TON— Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Fri­day he will nom­i­nate Wil­liam Barr, the late pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, to serve in the same role. Trump made the an­nounce­ment while de­part­ing the White House for a trip to Mis­souri. He called Barr “a ter­rific man” and “one of the most re­spected ju­rists in the coun­try.”

“Dur­ing his ten­ure, he demon­strated an un­wa­ver­ing ad­her­ence to the rule of law,” Trump said of Barr, while ad­dress­ing a law en­force­ment con­fer­ence i n Mis­souri. “There’s no one more ca­pa­ble or qual­i­fied for this role. He de­serves over­whelm­ing bi­par­ti­san sup­port. I sus­pect he’ll prob­a­bly get it.”

If con­firmed by the Se­nate, Barr would suc­ceed at­tor­ney gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, who was forced out of the post by Trump in Novem­ber fol­low­ing an ac­ri­mo­nious ten­ure.

Ses­sions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whi­taker, is cur­rently serv­ing as act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral. Trump’s fury at Ses­sions for re­cus­ing him­self from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion — which helped set in mo­tion the ap­point­ment of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller — cre­ated deep ten­sions be­tween Trump and his Jus­tice Depart­ment. He some­times puts the word “Jus­tice” in quotes when re­fer­ring to the depart­ment in tweets and has railed against its lead­ers for fail­ing to in­ves­ti­gate his 2016 cam­paign ri­val, Hil­lary Clin­ton, as ex­ten­sively as he would like. Barr’s se­lec­tion “is a con­tin­u­a­tion of this law and or­der pres­i­dency,” Whi­taker said.

“Bill is supremely qual­i­fied, highly re­spected at the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and will con­tinue to sup­port the men and women in blue,” he said.

Democrats will pre­sum­ably seek re­as­sur­ances dur­ing con­fir­ma­tion pro­ceed­ings that Barr, who as at­tor­ney gen­eral would be in a po­si­tion to over­see Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, would not do any­thing to in­ter­fere with the probe.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion ap­pears to be show­ing signs of en­ter­ing its fi­nal stages, prompt­ing a flurry of tweets from the pres­i­dent Thurs­day and Fri­day. But an at­tor­ney gen­eral op­posed to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion could the­o­ret­i­cally move to cut fund­ing or block cer­tain in­ves­tiga­tive steps.

Barr was at­tor­ney gen­eral be­tween 1991 and 1993, serv­ing in the Jus­tice Depart­ment at the same time Mueller over­saw the depart­ment’s crim­i­nal divi­sion. Barr later worked as a cor­po­rate gen­eral coun­sel and is cur­rently coun­sel at a prom­i­nent in­ter­na­tional law firm, Kirk­land & El­lis LLP.

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 Clin­ton, that “there is noth­ing in­her­ently wrong about a pres­i­dent call­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion” — though Barr also said one should not be launched just be­cause a pres­i­dent wants it.

He also said there was more rea­son 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 wrote an op-ed for the Wash­ing­ton Post in 2017 de­fend­ing Trump’s de­ci­sion to fire FBI di­rec­tor James Comey.


U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump says Wil­liam Barr, who served as at­tor­ney gen­eral from 1991 to 1993, is “supremely qual­i­fied.”

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