US Politics

William Barr was US attorney general 25 years ago, under George H.W. Bush – and Donald Trump may want him back in the job

  • William Barr served as the top US law enforcer from 1991 to 1993
  • Barr has been critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and has said Donald Trump was right to fire James Comey as FBI director
PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 5:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 5:44am

Former US Attorney General William Barr has emerged as US President Donald Trump’s likely choice to succeed Jeff Sessions as the nation’s chief law enforcement official, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Barr, if nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, would replace Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who has been filling the position since Sessions was ousted on November 7.

He would take over management of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by Trump’s campaign – the issue that cost Sessions his job.

Barr was George H.W. Bush’s attorney general between 1991 and 1993.

The Washington Post reported earlier Barr was the front-runner for the post. He’s been mentioned as a potential nominee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is in line to lead the Judiciary Committee next year and oversee Barr’s confirmation, said he would be a good choice.

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“He’d be an outstanding choice,” Graham said last week. “I think he could get confirmed very easily.”

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No 2 Republican leader, agreed. “He’s the kind of person who could get confirmed. I think it’s going to be challenging in any event.”

Trump never forgave Sessions, the former Alabama senator, for recusing himself from supervising Mueller’s probe, an investigation the president has repeatedly belittled as a “witch hunt”.

Barr has criticised Mueller for hiring attorneys for his team who contributed to Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton.

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“In my view, prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party,” Barr told the Post in July. “I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group.”

Barr has also written that former FBI Director James Comey was right to publicly announce, days before the 2016 election, that he was reopening an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of her emails as Secretary of State. He’s also written that Trump was right to fire Comey as well as former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

Trump has come under criticism by members of Congress for naming Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff, as the acting attorney general instead of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein appointed Mueller following Sessions’s recusal, a decision that angered the president.

Senate Democrats have sued the administration over the appointment, arguing it wasn’t constitutional.