February 5, 2019

William Barr: Nominee for Attorney General


  • William Barr is one of the most qualified attorney general nominees in history, having already served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.
  • He also served as an intelligence analyst at CIA, assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, and deputy attorney general.
  • Barr has shown exemplary independence, promising to allow completion of the Mueller investigation and praising the tenure of Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

As a former attorney general, deputy attorney general, Supreme Court and appellate court litigator, corporate counsel, and intelligence analyst, William Barr is one of the most qualified nominees to be attorney general in American history. In 1991, he was confirmed to be attorney general by a voice vote of the Senate. His nomination was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee under Chairman Joe Biden two days after his hearing. He was also confirmed to be deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel in unanimous consent or voice votes.

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Barr’s confirmation hearing lasted more than 12 hours over the course of January 15 and January 16. He and other witnesses answered hundreds of questions on a wide variety of issues he would confront as attorney general. He earned praise from Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, who said: “[H]e’s certainly been responsive to the questions. He hasn’t ducked them and he’s answered them as fully as he can … I think he’s held up well.”

Independence as attorney general

Democrats have asserted that a Barr memorandum on specific legal questions in the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election suggests he might not allow an unbiased investigation to move forward.

As Barr testified in his confirmation hearing, however, he has “known Bob Mueller personally and professionally for 30 years,” and the two are friends. He promised that “on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work.” He also expressly disavowed the view that the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt.”

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Barr further explained in his testimony that his memorandum was “narrow in scope” and “did not address – or in any way question – the special counsel’s core investigation.”

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey also testified to Barr’s independence and qualifications, saying, “His history of government service is simply without equal in suiting him to serve as attorney general.” Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson testified that Barr is “highly respected and admired, on a bipartisan basis, by the career prosecutors and investigators he oversaw in the department.”

Issue Tag: Senate