Trump Jus­tice pick likely to be queried on Mueller com­ments

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - POLITICS -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day picked for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr to once again serve as Amer­ica’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial. But while his ex­pe­ri­ence and main­stream back­ground may boost his prospects for con­fir­ma­tion, Democrats are raising alarms about his com­ments on the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Barr has ex­pressed con­cerns about po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions made by pros­e­cu­tors on spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s team and has sup­ported calls for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a ura­nium deal ap­proved while Clin­ton was sec­re­tary of state, a pet is­sue of Trump sup­port­ers.

It’s not clear whether Barr, if con­firmed, would take of­fice in time to shape the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which has shown signs of be­ing in its fi­nal stages. But even if it wraps up be­fore he takes of­fice, Barr would be in a po­si­tion to in­flu­ence pros­e­cu­tions stem­ming from the probe, as well as deal with other po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive cases, such as re­spond­ing to re­fer­rals from the House’s new Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity.

Barr, 68, would suc­ceed for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, whom Trump forced out af­ter con­stant heck­ling be­cause he had stepped aside from over­see­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Ses­sions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whi­taker, was el­e­vated to act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral and took control of Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Barr’s con­fir­ma­tion would cre­ate un­cer­tainty about the fu­ture of Rod Rosen­stein, the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral who over­saw the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment. Fre­quently, new deputies are also ap­pointed when there’s a new at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Barr’s ap­point­ment could bring more sta­bil­ity to the Jus­tice Depart­ment. Ses­sions’ ten­ure was marked by the in­ces­sant at­tacks from Trump, and Whi­taker’s el­e­va­tion was also con­tro­ver­sial. Ques­tions were raised about Whi­taker’s cre­den­tials, crit­i­cal com­ments he had made about the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore join­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment and his in­volve­ment with a com­pany that was ac­cused of mis­lead­ing con­sumers and is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI.

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

Trump called Barr “one of the most re­spected ju­rists in the coun­try.”

“Dur­ing his ten­ure, he demon­strated an un­wa­ver­ing ad­her­ence to the rule of law,” Trump said. “There’s no one more ca­pa­ble or qual­i­fied for this role.”

Con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings are un­likely be­fore Jan­uary, when Repub­li­cans will have a 53-47 ma­jor­ity, leav­ing Democrats pow­er­less to block the nom­i­na­tion un­less four Repub­li­cans break ranks.

The next chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., called Barr’s pick an “out­stand­ing de­ci­sion” and pledged to “do ev­ery­thing in my power” to quickly push the nom­i­na­tion through the com­mit­tee and onto the Se­nate floor for con­fir­ma­tion.

Wil­liam Barr

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