Trump said to be near de­ci­sion on choos­ing his next at­tor­ney gen­eral


For­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral William Barr is Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s lead­ing can­di­date to be nom­i­nated to lead the Jus­tice De­part­ment – a choice that could be made in com­ing days as the agency presses for­ward with a probe of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the de­lib­er­a­tions.

Barr, 68, a well-re­spected Re­pub­li­can lawyer who served as at­tor­ney gen­eral from 1991 to 1993 un­der then-Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, has emerged as a fa­vorite can­di­date of a num­ber of Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing se­nior lawyers in the White House Coun­sel’s Of­fice, these peo­ple said. Two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions said the pres­i­dent has told ad­vis­ers in re­cent days that he plans to nom­i­nate Barr.

One per­son fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions cau­tioned that while Barr is the lead­ing can­di­date, the de­ci­sion is not fi­nal and the pres­i­dent could de­cide to pick some­one else.

An­other per­son fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions said Barr is “a re­ally se­ri­ous con­tender, and pos­si­bly the front-run­ner” for the job, but stressed it was im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict Trump’s pick defini­tively un­til it was an­nounced pub­licly.

That per­son said those ad­vis­ing the pres­i­dent viewed Barr as some­one who knows the de­part­ment well, and is a good man­ager. Barr, this per­son said, also had a blunt­ness that is likely to res­onate with the pres­i­dent.

“He’s a se­ri­ous guy,” the per­son said. “The pres­i­dent is very, very fo­cused on (a can­di­date) look­ing the part, and hav­ing cre­den­tials con­sis­tent with the part.”

Barr de­clined to com- ment.

Those fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions said Barr, hav­ing al­ready been at­tor­ney gen­eral, doesn’t feel a par­tic­u­lar am­bi­tion for the po­si­tion, but does feel a sense of duty to take it if of­fered.

An al­ter­nate can­di­date is Rep. John Rat­cliffe, R-Texas, a con­ser­va­tive whose sup­port of the pres­i­dent has won the at­ten­tion and back­ing of oth­ers in­side the White House, these peo­ple said.

How­ever, a num­ber of of­fi­cials in the ad­min­is­tra­tion are pre­par­ing for the like­li­hood that Barr’s nom­i­na­tion will be an­nounced in the com­ing days, these peo­ple said.

Even if Barr were an­nounced as the pres­i­dent’s choice this week, it could take months for a con­fir­ma­tion vote, given the con­gres­sional sched­ule. In the mean­time, act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral Matthew Whi­taker would still serve as head of the Jus­tice De­part­ment – a de­ci­sion that has an­gered Democrats who ques­tion both his re­sume and the le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for his as­cen­sion to that job, given that he was not serv­ing in a Se­nate-con­firmed po­si­tion when Trump se­lected him as the tem­po­rary suc­ces­sor to Jeff Ses­sions, whom Trump forced out in early Novem­ber af­ter the midterm elec­tions.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials ex­pect Barr’s nom­i­na­tion would be re­ceived pos­i­tively by Repub­li­cans who re­spect his ex­pe­ri­ence, and Democrats who would likely view him as an old­school GOP lawyer with no par­tic­u­lar per­sonal loy­alty to the pres­i­dent.

Ge­orge Ter­williger, who served as the No. 2 of­fi­cial in the Jus­tice De­part­ment when Barr was at­tor­ney gen­eral, said Barr would bring “forty years of high level ex­pe­ri­ence, both in gov­ern­ment and in busi­ness, which gives him a per­spec­tive that fits many of this ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pri­or­i­ties.”

“I have no way of know­ing if the re­port that he’s a lead­ing can­di­date is ac­cu­rate, but if he was, be­cause of both his gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate back­ground, he would en­joy wide­spread sup­port – both in and out­side the le­gal com­mu­nity,” Ter­williger said.

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