William Barr: Senate confirms Trump pick as new attorney general

Sarah Harvard

Three months following the ousting of Jeff Sessions, the Senate voted to confirm William Barr for his second stint as attorney general.

The Senate confirmation on Thursday will grant Mr Barr, a hardline Republican, the power to supervise the Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia and its interference with the 2016 presidential election.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 54-45 in favour of President Donald Trump’s nominee for the post. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona strayed from their political party and supported Mr Barr.

GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina praised Mr Barr as an “outstanding pick” for attorney general. Shortly before the vote, Mr Graham argued the need for “steady leadership at a time we need steady leadership to give a morale boost to the Department of Justice”.

“Somebody who will be fair to the president, but also be fair to the rule of law and protect the integrity of the Department of Justice,” he added, after stating his support for Mr Barr.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone Republican who voted against Mr Barr, citing concerns over the conservative legal hand’s record on privacy rights.

“I have too many concerns about the record and views of this nominee. Bill Barr was a leading proponent of warrantless surveillance, and his overall record on the Fourth Amendment is troubling to me,” Mr Paul said in a statement after casting an initial vote on Tuesday. “I remain concerned that Bill Barr does not agree with our bipartisan efforts to reform our criminal justice system.”

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who is vying for the Democratic nomination in 2020, also echoed criticism of Mr Barr’s record on criminal justice and racial inequality.

“We need an attorney general that grasps the urgency of the moment, who is aware of the impact of the Department of Justice on communities across this country, and who is willing and prepared to protect our most fundamental rights,” Mr Booker said in a statement.

Mr Barr also sparked concerns last year after he sent around an unsolicited memo on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, accusing it of being based on a “fatally misconceived” theory with the potential to do “lasting damage” to the office of the presidency.

But Mr Barr insisted that his opinions on the probe won’t interfere with his duties as the head of the Justice Department during his confirmation hearing in January. He told senators that he would let Mr Mueller complete his investigation, prohibit Mr Trump from “correcting” the final report, and ensure that the special counsel’s findings would be made available to the public in accordance with the law.

Prior to his confirmation, Mr Barr served as attorney general for former President George HW Bush from 1991 to 1993. His legal experience including a decades-long career in corporate positions before joining the hicago-based law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Mr Barr will be replacing Matthew Whitaker, who has been serving as acting attorney general since Mr Sessions resignation, as the head of the Justice Department.