President Trump announced on Friday that he wants an attorney general who served under former President George H.W. Bush, who passed away last week, to lead the Justice Department.
William Barr, who served about 14 months under Bush, is a former CIA officer who later worked atop the Justice Department. Barr would formally replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions who was fired by Trump following the 2018 congressional elections.
Here’s more on Barr, from a Washington Examiner op-ed:
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.
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.
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.”
Barr criticized Comey’s handling of the Clinton email scandal and argued that he kneecapped the leadership of the Justice Department in saying that Clinton should not be prosecuted.
“By unilaterally announcing his conclusions regarding how the matter should be resolved, Comey arrogated the attorney general’s authority to himself,” Barr wrote in a 2017 Washington Post op-ed.
Barr’s nomination scored quick favor with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who praised Trump over the announcement.
“The president’s selection of Bill Barr as the next attorney general is a continuation of this law-and-order presidency,” Whitaker said during a conference with Trump in Kansas City, the Washington Examiner reports.
“Donald Trump ran for office as a law-and-order candidate … Now he is governing as a law-and-order president,” Whitaker added.
Whitaker also directly praised Barr for his prior service in the Justice Department, working under the 41st president.
“Bill is supremely qualified, highly respected at the Department of Justice, and will continue to support the men and women in blue. I commend the president for this excellent choice,” Whitaker exclaimed.
As partisan politics have consumed previous presidential appointments in the Senate, slowing the appointment process, Barr could run into some turbulence.
According to the Washington Examiner op-ed, Barr has scored at least some Democratic support ahead of the process.
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.”
Some Democrats may be uneasy about the nomination as Barr previously considered firing a special counsel who was investigating Bush ahead of his re-election campaign and eventual loss to Bill Clinton, the Washington Examiner reports:
During the Bush administration, Barr reportedly considered firing special counsel Lawrence Walsh, who was charged with investigating the Iran-Contra scandal, on a number of occasions, according to Bob Woodward in his book Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.
The day after Bush lost his re-election campaign to former President Bill Clinton, Bush called Barr into his office to discuss Walsh’s investigation, which he believed worked to cost him the White House. “It appears this was very political!” Bush reportedly told Barr in an energized manner, adding that it “cost me the election.”
Barr told the president that he could, under the law, terminate Walsh for “misconduct” and said that he had been tempted to fire Walsh over the past year and a half. “I’ve had an itchy finger,” Barr told the president.
Should the Senate wait until the next session, in January, to take up a vote on Barr, Republicans will hold a 53 to 47 vote margin over Democrats. So, Republicans may not need a vote from their Democratic colleagues to confirm him.