Meet William Barr, the attorney general who Democrats are calling on to resign over the Mueller report

  • Attorney General William Barr is at the center of the Russia investigation and everyone is looking following the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
  • Barr, who was confirmed on February 14, previously served as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush.
  • Democrats and even some Republicans have expressed concerns about Barr’s views on the scope of executive power.
  • Barr has faced criticism from Democrats for refusing to release an unredacted version of the Mueller report, and for his handling of the rollout of the redacted version.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

The spotlight has turned to Attorney General William Barr after the release of the redacted version of special counselRobert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, which contains the findings of his nearly two-year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

It was under Barr’s discretion whether the report was released publicly – and, if so, which parts.

President Donald Trump in early December nominated Barr to head the Justice Department.

The Senate on February 14 confirmed Barr as the new attorney general after a contentious process in which many Democrats, and even some Republicans, expressed concerns about Barr’s views on the scope of executive power.

After receiving Mueller’s report in late March, which is nearly 400 pages long, the attorney general published a four-page summary that said the special counsel did not find sufficient evidence to bring a conspiracy charge regarding allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Barr also said Mueller did not conclude Trump committed a crime, including obstruction of justice, but did not fully “exonerate” the president, either.

Since that time, Barr and congressional Democrats have sparred over the public release of the report. The attorney general has maintained that certain types of information need to be redacted as Democrats have pushed for a full, unredacted version of the report to be released.

The redacted report was released on April 18. Barr held a press conference ahead of its release, which led Democrats of accusing him of attempting to “spin” the report in the president’s favour.

Here’s what you need to know about the man everyone is watching on the release of the Mueller report.

Ellen Cranley contributed reporting.


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William Barr, 68, is a Republican lawyer who previously served as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993.


Barr was born in New York City and is Roman Catholic. He attended Columbia University, receiving his bachelor’s degree in government in 1971 and a master’s degree in government and Chinese studies in 1973.

Facebook/Columbia UniversityColumbia University in New York City.

He worked at the CIA as an analyst and assistant legislative counsel and studied law at night at George Washington University in Washington, DC, graduating in 1977.

Pool / Getty Images

After graduation, Barr became a clerk for a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He then became an associate at a DC law firm, but left the job to go work in former President Ronald Reagan’s administration on the domestic policy staff.


Barr worked in the Reagan administration from 1982 to 1983, then returned to the DC law firm he left to serve in the White House. He worked at the firm until 1989, when he was appointed as assistant attorney general of the US.


Barr quickly rose to the position of deputy attorney general, before being appointed acting attorney general in 1991 when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh resigned to campaign for the US Senate.


Several days after Barr became acting attorney general, a group of Cuban inmates at a prison in Talladega, Alabama, staged a revolt over their imminent deportation and took hostages. Barr gave the order for a federal assault team to go in and rescue the hostages. The mission was successfully carried out without a single shot being fired.


Source: The New York Times


Barr received national attention for his handling of the hostage situation and was nominated by Bush to be attorney general shortly thereafter.


Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel


During his confirmation hearings, Barr told the Senate he thought Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, should be overturned.


Source: Los Angeles Times


Barr was confirmed as Attorney General of the US and sworn in on November 26, 1991.


As attorney general, Barr took a hardline stance on crime, issuing a series of measures aimed at addressing “gangs, drugs, and guns.”


Source: The New York Times


“I believe deeply that the first duty of government is providing for the personal security of its citizens,” Barr said in 1992. “Therefore I would naturally place the highest priority on strengthening law enforcement.”


Source: The New York Times


Barr in 2001 said he’d urged Bush to pardon a number of key figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, including former Defence Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger. The scandal involved the illegal sale of arms to Iran and anti-government guerrillas in Nicaragua. Bush’s decision to pardon Weinberger and others is often listed among the most controversial examples of the president exercising pardon power in US history.


Sources: Miller Center; The New York Times; The Guardian


Barr worked in the corporate world for many years after he served as attorney general under Bush, including at Verizon. He’s been associated with the DC-based Kirkland & Ellis law firm since 2009.


Source: Kirkland & Ellis


President Trump controversially elevated Matthew Whitaker, who’s been vocally critical of the Mueller probe, to acting attorney general. Whitaker’s promotion prompted concerns Trump was moving to squash the probe. Similar concerns are arising regarding Barr’s potential nomination.


Source: The Washington Post


Barr in November 2017 told The New York Times there was more basis for investigating a uranium deal between the US and Russia from when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State than allegations the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin’s 2016 election interference. Trump has repeatedly made false claims about Clinton’s involvement in the uranium deal.

Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Urban Zen FoundationFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Sources: The New York Times; PolitiFact


Barr in 2017 also said he believed Clinton should be investigated on certain matters, echoing similar, controversial calls from Trump. “I don’t think all this stuff about throwing [Clinton] in jail or jumping to the conclusion that she should be prosecuted is appropriate,” Barr said at the time. He added. “But I do think that there are things that should be investigated that haven’t been investigated.”

Scott Olson/Getty ImagesFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Source: The Washington Post


Additionally, Barr supported one of Trump’s most criticised moves as president — the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Barr wrote an op-ed in 2017 stating Trump “made the right call.” Trump has faced accusations of obstruction of justice over Comey’s ousting.


Sources: The Washington Post


In a separate op-ed, Barr expressed approval of Trump’s firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to enforce the president’s travel ban that targeted predominantly Muslim countries.


Source: The Washington Post


Barr has also been critical of Mueller’s team of prosecutors, questioning their political leanings. “I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group,” Barr said on the subject last year.


Source: The Washington Post


As attorney general, Barr will have the authority to fire Mueller.


The Senate voted 54-45 to confirm Barr on Thursday, February 14.


Source:
INSIDER


Barr succeeds Jeff Sessions, who resigned at the request of the president after facing ongoing criticism from Trump over his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian election interference.


Source:
INSIDER


Barr during his confirmation hearings said he’d seek the advice of Justice Department ethics officials on whether to recuse himself from Mueller’s probe, but didn’t make any commitments. He also did not commit to making Mueller’s final report publicly available, and said the public would see his own summary of the special counsel’s ultimate findings.


Source:
INSIDER


Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, after Barr’s confirmation said his “views about the power of the president are especially troubling in light of his refusal to commit to making the special counsel’s findings and the report publicly available.”

Zach Gibson/Getty ImagesSen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).


Source:
The Associated Press


Barr also has a long history of supporting expansive government surveillance programs and related legislation, including the Patriot Act, which is part of the reason politicians like GOP Sen. Rand Paul voted against confirming him. Paul, among others in Congress, has expressed concerns about Barr’s views on the scope of executive power.


Source:
INSIDER


The American Civil Liberties Union has referred to Barr as the “godfather of the NSA’s bulk data collection programs.”


Source:
ACLU


After Barr was confirmed, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “A major victory for justice and the rule of law in America: the Senate just confirmed President @realDonaldTrump’s outstanding nominee William Barr as Attorney General.”

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesWhite House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.


Source:
Twitter


After Mueller turned in his highly anticipated final report in the Russia investigation, Barr was the center of attention as lawmakers urged him to release the report to Congress and make some version of it public.

Source: Business Insider


Though investigators announced there would be no new indictments from the report, all eyes will remain on Barr as he releases what will inform next steps in the Russia investigation, which has already led to indictments against more than three dozen people, including top Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence figures.

Source: Business Insider


Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report on April 18. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats have been pushing for a full, unredacted version of the report.


Democrats have continued to spar with Barr over the rollout of the Mueller report, particularly after it was revealed the special counsel wrote the attorney general a letter criticising his summary of it in late March.


Source: INSIDER


Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 2 and faced tough, heated questioning from Democratic senators on the Mueller report. Subsequently, the Justice Department informed the House Judiciary Committee the attorney general would not testify before the committee.


Source:
INSIDER


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused Barr of criminally lying to Congress about Mueller’s dissatisfaction with the report.

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


Source:
INSIDER


Meanwhile, a number of Democratic lawmakers have called on Barr to resign or be impeached.


Source:
INSIDER

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