Sat, Feb 16, 2019 - Page 7 News List

William Barr sworn in as new US attorney general

AP, WASHINGTON

William Barr was on Thursday sworn in for his second stint as US attorney general, taking the helm of the US Department of Justice as US Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigates potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier in the day, the US Senate voted 54-45 to confirm the senior government official, mostly along party lines.

Barr, who also served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 during former US president George H.W. Bush’s administration, succeeds Jeff Sessions.

US President Donald Trump last year pushed Sessions out of office after railing against his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

As the US’ chief law enforcement officer, Barr is to oversee the remaining work in Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, and decide how much the US Congress and the public know about its conclusion.

Democrats, who largely voted against Barr, said that they were concerned about his noncommittal stance on making Mueller’s report public.

Barr said he would be as transparent as possible, but takes seriously Justice Department regulations that dictate that Mueller’s report should be treated as confidential.

Barr’s opponents also pointed to a memo he wrote to department officials before his nomination that criticized Mueller’s investigation for the way it was presumably looking into whether Trump had obstructed justice.

Barr wrote that Trump could not have obstructed justice by firing former FBI director James Comey, as it was an action that the president is constitutionally entitled to take.

That view has alarmed Democrats, especially as the obstruction inquiry has been central to Mueller’s investigation.

“Mr Barr’s views about the power of the president are especially troubling in light of his refusal to commit to making the special counsel’s findings and the report publicly available,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the US Senate Select Committee on the Judiciary.

Feinstein said that the attorney general should be “objective” and “clearly committed to protecting the interest of the people, the country and the Constitution.”

Barr would be tasked with restoring some stability after almost two years of open tension between Trump and department officials.

Trump repeatedly lashed out at Sessions before he finally fired him in November last year, and he has also publicly criticized Mueller and his staff, calling the probe a “witch hunt” and suggesting that they are out to get him for political reasons.

The criticism extended to US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel. Rosenstein is expected to leave the department shortly after Barr takes office.

Three Democrats — senators Doug Jones, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — joined Republicans in voting to confirm Barr.

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