William Barr, the conservative Washington, D.C., attorney who headed the Justice Department in the early 1990s, will be President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney general.
The president made the announcement in comments to the press Friday morning. Barr, who was a former U.S. attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, currently serves as of counsel at Kirkland & Ellis. He will be tapped once again to head the Justice Department in a fraught time for the agency, which oversees special counsel Robert Mueller III’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump said he hopes the confirmation process moves quickly.
“I’ve seen very good things about him even over the last day or so when people thought it might be Bill Barr,” Trump said.
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If he is confirmed, Barr will replace acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, whose own installation atop the Justice Department has generated much controversy and is currently the subject of litigation. Barr’s nomination would have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which could take months.
Before Barr served as attorney general, he was in the No. 2 spot as deputy attorney general and also headed the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. Here are some other things to know about Barr:
He has served as of counsel at Kirkland since 2017. Since he left the Justice Department in the early ‘90s, Barr has moved around the private sector, serving in top roles for corporations and law firms. In 1994, upon leaving the DOJ, he worked as general counsel for GTE Corp., the telephone giant that merged with Bell Atlantic to form Verizon in 2000. Barr served as Verizon’s general counsel until late 2008, when he left for a brief stint at Kirkland & Ellis in 2009. Shortly after, he was named to Time Warner Inc.’s board of directors. Barr rejoined Kirkland in 2017, where he has advised major companies like Caterpillar.
He was a big fan of the previous occupant of the AG office. In a recent Washington Post column with two other former U.S. attorneys general, Barr praised former AG Jeff Sessions’ tenure at DOJ. Sessions resigned from his role in November under pressure from the Trump White House. Writing with former AGs Ed Meese and Michael Mukasey, Barr praised Sessions’ handling of controversial issues like law enforcement and immigration. On the topic of law enforcement’s relationship with African-Americans, the op-ed authors criticized the Obama administration, writing that it had “undermined police morale, with the spreading ‘Ferguson effect’ causing officers to shy away from proactive policing out of fear of prosecution.”
Barr opposed one of the Justice Department’s biggest actions last year: Its antitrust lawsuit to block the AT&T and Time Warner merger. Court filings show that Barr, as a Time Warner board member, attended a November 2017 meeting with Justice Department officials who were preparing a legal challenge to the merger. Later, as the legal fight brewed in Washington, D.C., federal court, Barr wrote a declaration about that meeting, disputing the Justice Department’s claims that Paul Cappuccio, Time Warner’s lawyer, had threatened retaliation against Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s top antitrust official. “No reasonable person could have misinterpreted Mr. Cappuccio’s comments as a threat that the companies would personally attack Mr. Delrahim or anyone else in the event of litigation,” Barr said in his declaration. If Barr is confirmed as the AG, he would be Delrahim’s boss.
Barr has sounded off on the Mueller probe, as well other controversial but cornerstone issues for the Trump administration. Speaking to the New York Times in November 2017, Barr weighed in on the president’s calls to investigate his political rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “There is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation,” he said, adding: “Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a president wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation.” Barr, according to the Times, said there was more of a basis for the Justice Department to probe the Uranium One deal, a cause célèbre for anti-Clinton conservatives, than for its investigation of any possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia. “To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility,” he told the Times.