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Barr Confirmed as Attorney General

On Thursday, the Senate voted 54-45 to confirm William Barr as attorney general, replacing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department.

This is not the first time Barr has held the position, as the newly elected member to President Donald Trump’s cabinet had previously served under George H. W. Bush’s administration from 1991 to 1993. Having also worked for the CIA in the 70s and in the Office of the Legal Counsel, Barr is no newcomer to Washington.

William Barr speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Credit: Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters

William Barr speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Primarily split along partisan lines, Democratic senators Doug Jones (D-Al), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) diverged from the rest of their party and joined their Republican colleagues in confirming President Trump’s nominee. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was the sole Republican to vote against Barr.

Prior to Barr’s confirmation, concerns were raised as to how Barr would handle Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential election and the Trump Campaign. Last month, as Barr was summoned before the Senate Judiciary Committee, many Democrats highlighted Barr’s memo to the Justice Department last summer criticizing elements of the special counsel probe as a point of concern. In the 19-page memo, Barr admitted that even though he is “in the dark about many of the facts,” he pointed out that Mueller was “proposing an unprecedented expansion of obstruction laws.”

Speaking before the committee in January, Barr reassured the panel, noting that “it is vitally important” that Mueller is able to fully complete his investigation. Despite these remarks, top Democrats remained skeptical of Barr’s comments. A day following Barr’s hearing, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said to reporters, “we do not have the kind of strong, clear commitments to the report being issued and there being no interference in the investigation that are needed, particularly now with President Trump treating the Justice Department as he has.”

As the top lawyer of the country, Barr is expected to deal with wide range of pressing topics, including immigration. Barr would look to reinforce his predecessor’s hard-line stance on the issue. In his first tenure as Attorney General, Barr played a pivotal role in making it more difficult for asylum seekers to enter the United States. During his confirmation, Barr also noted that he backed President Trump’s wall proposal, asserting, “The point is we need money right now for border security, including barriers and walls and slats and other things.”

Barr is supportive President Trump’s stance on the border wall. Credit: Nick Oza/ The Republic

Barr is supportive President Trump’s stance on the border wall. Credit: Nick Oza/The Republic

The confirmation will end Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s short tenure as the head of the Justice Department. Whitaker had briefly served the role after Jeff Sessions was fired by the President last November.