President Trump announced that he is nominating William Barr as attorney general to take the place of Jeff Sessions and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker at the Justice Department.
Who is William Barr?
The job isn’t new to Barr, who served as attorney general for roughly 14 months under President George H. W. Bush. Prior to his nomination and confirmation, Barr worked in the Office of Legal Counsel as assistant attorney general and was then appointed to deputy attorney general. Suffice it to say that he’s experienced.
Why did Trump pick Barr?
Although Barr did not back Trump in the 2016 election, he did share the view that the DOJ should have done more to investigate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for government email. He told the New York Times in November 2017 that there was nothing “inherently wrong” with Trump calling for an investigation into Clinton. However, he did say that there should not necessarily be an investigation simply because a president calls for one.
Additionally, Barr was supportive of Trump firing James Comey as the FBI director, saying it was “quite understandable.” In relation to the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s email server, Barr wrote in a Washington Post op-ed: “By unilaterally announcing his conclusions regarding how the matter should be resolved, Comey arrogated the attorney general’s authority to himself” instead of letting the deputy attorney general handle the case after then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch recused herself.
Finally, with respect to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump 2016 campaign, Barr was critical of Mueller’s hiring decisions, telling the Washington Post that they seemed to be mostly left-wing Democrats based on their political giving. “Prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party,” he said. “I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group.”
His comments have many liberals upset today.
What will Barr face in the Senate?
There’s a good chance that Barr will face the same level of skepticism from Senate Democrats as previous Trump nominees. However, he might have more bipartisan appeal.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told the Washington Examiner, “I’ve always said the best thing the administration can do is get somebody who would have majority support from Republicans and Democrats.” And when he was asked if Barr could win such support, Leahy said, “Yes, he could.”
The Senate will go out of session in mid-December, and Republicans will come back with an expanded majority of 53 senators. Even if Democrats don’t come through for Barr, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t have to worry as much about possible Republican defectors like Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, or Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., voting “no.”