Just the Facts

Five Facts on William Barr's Confirmation Hearings

By Emma Petasis
January 15, 2019 | Blog

On Tuesday William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general will begin his confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here are five facts on William Barr’s confirmation hearings.

On November 7 President Trump fired his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Sessions, a four-term senator from Alabama and one of the president’s most fervent supporters in the 2016 presidential campaign had served as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer for fewer than two years before he was forced out. While Sessions had been successful in advancing many of the administration’s key initiatives, aggressively reorienting the Justice Department’s stances on issues such as immigration, civil rights, and criminal justice, he had drawn the president’s ire for his decision to recuse himself from all investigations related to Russian collusion in the 2016 elections. Sessions was succeeded by Matthew Whittaker, his former chief of staff, who continues to serve as acting attorney general.

On December 7 President Trump announced he was nominating William Barr to lead the Justice Department on a permanent basis.

Barr is no stranger to the Department of Justice (DOJ), having served as the 77th attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. He has also served in numerous other senior positions within the DOJ, such as deputy attorney general from 1990 to 1991 and as an assistant attorney general from 1989 to 1990. During his time at the Justice Department, Barr oversaw the government’s response to the bombing of Pan Am 103, the suppression of the Talladega prison uprising and ensuing hostage situation, and directed counter-terrorism activities during the First Gulf War. Since leaving government, Barr has held numerous positions in the private sector, including as the general counsel and executive vice president of Verizon. If Barr is confirmed by the Senate, he will be only the second person to serve as attorney general twice, joining John Jordan Crittenden, who served in 1841 and again from 1850-1853.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold Barr’s confirmation hearings on January 15 and 16.

Over the past several weeks Barr has fielded meeting with various senators on the Judiciary Committee. Barr began his meetings last Wednesday, sitting down with current Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and former Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) There were initial concerns that Barr was stonewalling Democrats interested in meeting with him after Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced that she had been informed that Barr could not make time for her. However, following the complaint, Barr has made time to meet with numerous Senate Democrats, including Klobuchar. If Barr is confirmed by the Judiciary Committee, he will then face a confirmation vote by the full Senate shortly thereafter.

The confirmation hearings are expected to be contentious.

As attorney general Barr would be tasked with overseeing some of the most high-profile and controversial issues in American politics, chief among them Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. It is all but certain that Barr, who previously wrote an unsolicited memo to the DOJ criticizing the investigation, will face difficult lines of questioning that focus heavily on his willingness to allow Mueller to complete his work unimpeded. However, in a recent statement Barr stated that “It is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation,” before pledging that it will be his goal “to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with law.”

President Trump has claimed that  Barr was his top choice for attorney general.

When announcing Barr’s nomination, the president added that throughout the confirmation process Barr had been his top choice, stating “there is no one more capable or qualified for this role.” However, he was not the only person the president considered. Among the other top contenders were Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, former New York City mayor and current outside counsel to the president, Rudy Giuliani, and formed New Jersey governor and Trump ally Chris Christie.

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