William Barr has been nominated by President Trump to lead the U.S. Justice Department, the White House announced this morning.
Barr, 68, served as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration from 1991 to 1993. In the decades since, he’s worked as a corporate lawyer, including a long stint as general counsel and executive vice president of Verizon. He retired from the telecom giant in 2008 and has since worked for the law firm Kirkland & Ellis.
Barr would replace acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, who’s been widely criticized for his public comments questioning the legitimacy of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian tampering with the 2016 election. Trump appointed Whitaker last month after firing former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions in the immediate wake of the 2018 midterms. The president had been itching to rid the Justice Department of Sessions for months, due to Sessions’ recusal from the Mueller probe.
Will Barr keep his hands off Mueller? That question is sure to come up in Senate hearings on his nomination. Nonetheless, Barr’s confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate seems a good bet. He lacks Whitaker’s rhetorical baggage, and the fact Barr served under Bush 41 — who’s been temporarily elevated to a mild sort of national sainthood after his recent death — can’t hurt his image as a reasonable pick.
Considering the high stakes of the Russia investigation, there’s still cause for concern. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake writes that Barr, too, has been critical of the Mueller probe and suggested that the Justice Department should further investigate Hillary Clinton’s role in the “Uranium One” controversy.
Governor Hutchinson, who served as a U.S. attorney during the Reagan era, tweeted his enthusiastic endorsement of Barr:
William Barr is an excellent choice for AG. I have known him for decades as an outstanding lawyer and person of integrity. He is very experienced both in the business world & in government service. He will be well received by the career prosecutors in Justice Department.
— Gov. Asa Hutchinson (@AsaHutchinson) December 7, 2018
The White House also announced that former Fox News correspondent Heather Nauert would be nominated to replace outgoing United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley. The UN ambassadorship also requires Senate confirmation.