WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has decided to nominate former Attorney General William Barr to be the next permanent head of the Justice Department, the President told reporters Friday.
“I want to confirm that Bill Barr, one of the most respected jurists in the country, highly respected lawyer, former attorney general under the Bush administration, a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man,” Trump said as he departed the White House. “I did not know him until recently when I went through the process of looking at people and he was my first choice from day one, respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats.”
“He will be nominated for the United States attorney general and hopefully that process will go very quickly,” Trump added.
Barr previously worked at the CIA in the 1970s and served in several leadership roles at the Justice Department serving under President George H.W. Bush. He ultimately served as attorney general from 1991 through 1993. He subsequently served in several executive and leadership positions at corporations, including Verizon Communications. Barr served as a board member on CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, Inc., (now Warner Media) from 2009 until 2018.
Prior to Trump’s comments, Barr had emerged this week as a consensus candidate to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general, two sources familiar with Trump’s thinking told CNN on Thursday.
The announcement comes during a critical time for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, of which the next Justice Department chief will inherit oversight. Barr has previously offered mixed opinionsabout the investigation, having praised Mueller but also publicly criticizing political donations made by several members of his team.
Barr also served as Mueller’s boss when he was attorney general in the early 1990s and Mueller led the criminal division at the Justice Department.
Trump picked Matthew Whitaker to be acting attorney general after Sessions was fired last month.
The move was an abrupt end to what had been a tumultuous tenure for Sessions, originally one of Trump’s earliest and most loyal surrogates as an Alabama Republican senator.
Sessions was an enforcer of much of the Trump administration’s hardline approach on immigration and regularly praised the President’s tough words on crime. But even as he continued to carry out the Trump agenda, his relationship with the President remained strained and fraught for months due to the ongoing Mueller investigation, because Sessions recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 campaign early in Trump’s term.