President Donald Trump said on Friday he had chosen former U.S. Attorney General William Barr to once again lead the Justice Department, a role that would put him in charge of the federal probe into Russian election interference, Reuters informs.
If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would take over from Matthew Whitaker, who has been serving in an acting capacity since Trump forced out former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions a month ago.
According to Trump, Barr was “his first choice from day one,” lauding him as “a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man.”
Barr was previously attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under the late President George H.W. Bush, and has defended Trump’s controversial decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, when Comey was leading the Russia probe.
After Comey’s firing, Special Counsel Robert Mueller took over that investigation, which includes any possible collusion between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 election campaign, and any potential obstruction of justice. The Russia probe has long infuriated Trump, who calls it a witch hunt and who has denied any collusion or any obstruction of justice, Reuters explains.
Barr has said there is more reason to investigate potential wrongdoing by Trump’s campaign opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, than there is to probe any potential collusion, Reuters adds.
He has also claimed that political donations show Mueller’s team of professional prosecutors tilt uncomfortably to the left. On Twitter, Trump calls them “17 Angry Dems.” “I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group,” Barr told the Washington Post in July 2017.
As attorney general, Barr would have ultimate responsibility for the Russia investigation, unless he recuses himself. Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation, Reuters notes.