Trump chooses Barr as next AG
Nominee has been critical of Russia probe
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Friday he will nominate former Attorney General William Barr to lead the Justice Department, a move that could have ramifications for the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The attorney general for President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993, Barr in recent months has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation and defended many of Trump’s actions, including his dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.
“I did not know him until recently,” Trump told reporters Friday. “But he was my first choice since day one.”
If confirmed, Barr would replace Jeff Sessions, who was dismissed last month by Trump. Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, is serving as acting attorney general.
The president had constantly criticized Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he had been involved with Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Administration officials began circulating Barr’s name on Thursday, and senators, including some Democrats, praised his experience.
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who served in the administration of George W. Bush and was a strong supporter of Sessions, called Barr a “superb nomination.”
“He (Trump) couldn’t have done any better,” Mukasey said. “He’s a very smart lawyer, has excellent judgment and, most importantly, has done the job before.”
In the aftermath of Sessions’ firing last month, Mukasey and Barr, ironically, authored a column in The Washington Post with former Attorney General Edwin Meese, lauding Sessions’ tenure.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee that will host Barr’s confirmation hearing, promised that the former attorney general will nonetheless be “thoroughly vetted.”