Willam Barr confirmed as attorney general

  • William Barr was confirmed as attorney general on Thursday.
  • Barr has an extensive track record of government service.
  • His confirmation comes after a contentious hearing process, during which Democratic lawmakers grilled him about his controversial views on the FBI’s Russia investigation and executive power.
  • According to CNN, Barr has already begun planning his oversight of the special counsel Robert Mueller. Among other things, he’s focusing on how much information he’ll report to Congress about Mueller’s findings, and who his deputy attorney general will be.

The Senate confirmed William Barr as the new attorney general on Thursday following a contentious confirmation process.

Barr will replace Matthew Whitaker, who was the acting attorney general after President Donald Trump fired Jeff Sessions last year.

Barr previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. Before that, he served as a legal adviser to President Ronald Reagan, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, deputy attorney general, and acting attorney general.

Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-10 along party lines to advance Barr’s nomination to the full Senate for a final vote.

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The move came after Barr testified before lawmakers on the panel about his stance on a multitude of legal issues, as well as his controversial views on executive power and the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

In the weeks leading up to his highly anticipated testimony, Barr drew sharp scrutiny over a memo he wrote last year where he argued that Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice investigation into Trump is “legally unsupportable” and should not be sanctioned by the Justice Department.

At his confirmation hearing, Barr said he wrote the memo – which he sent to the White House, the Justice Department, and lawyers representing other defendants in the Russia probe – because he was concerned Mueller’s obstruction investigation was based on an overly broad interpretation of the law and could have far-reaching ramifications down the road.

When lawmakers asked Barr whether he would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe in light of the memo he sent last year, Barr said he would seek the advice of Justice Department ethics officials but did not commit to following their advice.

Barr is already weighing how much of Mueller’s report to make public

Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller. Alex Wong/Getty Images

When he was pressed on how he would oversee Mueller’s investigation, Barr said he would ensure that the special counsel regulations were maintained and that he would also make sure Mueller had the resources, funding, and time needed to complete the Russia investigation.

Barr added that he is friends with Mueller and doesn’t believe the special counsel would embark on a “witch hunt,” as Trump and his allies claim.

Barr also pledged that if he denied Mueller any resources or other requests, he would notify Congress of the matter. Asked whether he would commit to making any report Mueller produces available to Congress and the public, Barr said Mueller’s report would not be made public. Instead, he told lawmakers, the public would see his own summary of the special counsel’s findings.

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According to CNN, Barr has already begun planning how to take control of the Mueller probe. He’s reportedly focused on two decisions in particular: how much information to report to Congress about Mueller’s findings, and who the deputy attorney general will be (Rod Rosenstein, the current deputy attorney general who is overseeing Mueller, plans to step down after the Russia probe is completed).

Per CNN, Barr has zeroed-in on Jeffrey Rosen, the deputy transportation secretary, to replace Rosenstein.

It also emerged this week that Barr’s family members who currently serve at the Justice Department will be leaving their posts. His son-in-law, Tyler McGaughey, is departing and taking a job at the White House counsel’s office. The White House counsel is appointed by the president to advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency.

The White House counsel is distinct from the legal team that defends Trump in the Russia investigation, but its work often intersects with the investigation.

Barr’s daughter also currently works at the Justice Department, but she will be leaving her position to work for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.