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Bill Barr confirmed as US attorney general

Friday February 15 2019

US attorney general William Barr

William Barr, nominee to be US Attorney General, arrives to testify during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 15, 2019. PHOTO | SAUL LOEB | AFP 

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The US Senate on Thursday confirmed Bill Barr as the nation's next attorney general, placing him in control of the long-running investigation into President Donald Trump's possible Russia connections.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate voted largely along party lines, 54-45, to confirm Mr Barr to the post, which he had previously held under George H.W. Bush's administration.

President Trump has attacked Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as a "witch hunt."

But Mr Barr said during congressional testimony that he does not agree with that description, and that he would allow Mr Mueller to complete his investigation unimpeded.


The White House said Barr's confirmation marks "a major victory for justice and the rule of law in America."

Mr Barr, 68, will be sworn in at 4.45pm (2145 GMT) in the Oval Office, according to the Justice Department.

The longtime communications industry lawyer takes the job amid a tug of war between the president, who wants greater control of the Justice Department, and Mr Mueller.

Mr Barr was confirmed despite his refusal to commit to making Mr Mueller's report public, something which has bothered many Democrats. He has pledged to be as transparent as possible, but that assurance has not sat well with critics.


Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer warned that Mr Barr would be entering a "maelstrom" upon taking the job.

"We need an attorney general who can assure the Senate and the American public that he will stand up to a President who is dead-set on protecting his political interests above all norms and rules of conduct," Mr Schumer said in opposing Barr's nomination.

"I remain unconvinced that Mr Barr is prepared to meet this moment."


Mr Barr would succeed Jeff Sessions, whom President Trump sacked in November amid rising pressure on the White House from Mueller's investigation.

While he led major Trump administration initiatives to crack down on crime and illegal immigration, Mr Sessions angered the president when he recused himself from overseeing the Mueller probe because of his own contacts with Russians.

His recusal effectively served as a buffer between Mueller and the White House, but critics warn that the barrier is now considerably weakened.

Mr Barr was strongly critical of the Mueller investigation in 2017 while he was in the private sector.

Last year, he sent an unsolicited legal opinion to the Justice Department and White House arguing that Mr Mueller had no grounds to investigate Mr Trump for obstruction of justice based on the firing of FBI director James Comey in May 2017.


The President abruptly removed Mr Comey amid rising tension over the FBI probe.

Mr Comey later said he had rejected pressure from Mr Trump to publicly declare that he was not under investigation.

Mr Barr signalled in his confirmation hearing he intends to maintain his independence, saying he would rebuff a White House order to fire Mueller absent any good cause.