US President Donald Trump on Friday named Justice Minister William Barr, a Republican lawyer who served in the early 1990s under President George H. W. Bush.
He will replace Jeff Sessions, whom the president fired brutally in November, raising fears of a resumption of control of the highly sensitive Russian investigation.
“He is respected by Republicans and Democrats,” said Trump. “He is one of the most respected jurists in the country and one of the best legal minds,” he later tweeted.
The appointment of William Barr, 68, has yet to be confirmed by a Senate vote, in accordance with the Constitution. Given the parliamentary recess, it is unlikely that he will take office until next year.
In the Republican ranks, enthusiasm was in order. Describing this choice as “exceptional”, Senator Lindsey Graham praised a man “of the highest integrity”. His colleague Orrin Hatch emphasized “his vast experience and finesse of judgment”.
The democrats were more circumspect. Senator Richard Blumenthal referred to his “comments suggesting that he is more interested in courting Trump than objectively analyzing the laws and the facts”. His colleague Patrick Leahy also spoke of “troubling recent comments”.
The Senate, partly renewed in the elections of November 6, will have 53 Republicans out of 100 in September, which should ensure the confirmation of William Barr.
- “Confident” –
Meanwhile, the acting at the Justice Department is being provided by Matthew Whitaker, suspected because of past remarks about being on a commissioned mission to trim the wings of Special Attorney Robert Mueller.
Mr. Mueller, a former chief of the Federal Police (FBI) become the president’s bête noire, is responsible in particular to establish whether or not there was collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump’s campaign team during the presidential election. in 2016. He seems on track to complete his investigation.
William Barr is well acquainted with Robert Mueller, whose chief he was when he was George H. W. Bush’s Minister of Justice from 1991 to 1993. Mr. Mueller was then director of the department’s criminal affairs department.
Barr had lauded the choice of appointing him special prosecutor of the Russian investigation in May 2017, saying he was “confident” that Mueller “would not let the investigation degenerate into an endless witch hunt”.
A few months later, however, he regretted that members of the Mueller team made donations to Democratic candidates.
- “Nothing bad” –
A graduate of Columbia University, William Barr worked for the CIA Intelligence Agency and the Federal Capital Tribunals before serving with President H.W. Bush.
After the election of Democrat Bill Clinton, he left for the private sector, including serving US telecom operator Verizon. He was recently working for a large New York law firm.
He regularly commented on the news and some of his remarks have raised questions in the ranks of Democrats.
He notably supported the dismissal of FBI leader James Comey by Donald Trump: “I find it quite understandable that the administration does not want an FBI director who does not respect the established limits of his power.”
He also defended the billionaire’s call for an inquiry into his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. “There is nothing inherently wrong with a president asking for an investigation,” he said, while the Constitution provides for a strict separation of executive and judicial powers.
According to a popular opinion in some conservative circles, he believes there is more reason to investigate the alleged links between Clinton and the sale of a uranium mine, than on a possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump candidate.