Trump picks William Barr as next attorney general

 
The selection of Barr, who served as the nation's top law enforcement official under President George H.W. Bush, could have implications for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE's Russia investigation. Barr has recently criticized parts of the probe and defended Trump's decision to fire James ComeyJames Brien ComeyComey says he has a 'fantasy' about deleting his Twitter account after end of Trump term We need answers to questions mainstream media won't ask about Democrats Trump 'constantly' discusses using polygraphs to stem leaks: report MORE as FBI director. 
 
Speaking to reporters at the White House before leaving to speak to a police officers' convention in Kansas City, Trump lauded Barr as a “highly respected lawyer” and a “brilliant man.” 
 
“He was my first choice since day one,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. “He'll be nominated."
 
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Barr's selection is part of a fresh shakeup of Trump's Cabinet and senior White House staff. 
 
Trump also announced Friday that he would nominate Heather Nauert to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert, who has served as State Department spokesperson during Trump's presidency, had previously been seen as the favorite for the role. 
 
The moves come on a day when rumors of White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE's imminent departure again surfaced. Kelly's relationship with Trump has deteriorated for months, and multiple reports on Friday said he is expected to leave his post in the coming days.
 
If confirmed, Barr will fill the void left by Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her 'high-dollar hairdo' Trump's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy MORE, who resigned as attorney general at Trump’s request in early November after weathering months of attacks from the president over his recusal from the Russia investigation.
 
Barr emerged on Thursday as the front-runner for the attorney general post, and he garnered praise from Republicans, and some Democrats, in Washington. 
 
While he is a well-known figure in the nation's capital, Barr is expected to face a tough confirmation battle in the Senate. He is likely to face questions about the Justice Department’s political independence from the White House as well as Trump’s criticism of the department over Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the president’s campaign and Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
 
Trump urged senators to confirm Barr post without delay. 
 
“Hopefully that process will go very quickly, and I think it will go very quickly, and I've seen very good things about him over the last day or so,” the president said. 
 
In the meantime, Matthew Whitaker will continue to lead the Justice Department in an acting capacity. Whitaker has faced intense public scrutiny from Democrats and other Trump critics for his past remarks on the Russia investigation, including suggesting at one point that Mueller would be crossing a “red line” by investigating Trump’s finances.
 
Barr, 68, served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under Bush. He then spent more than a decade in corporate roles, including as general counsel and executive vice president of Verizon Communications, before joining the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
 
Barr would take the reins of a sprawling organization responsible for enforcing federal laws, handling prosecutions of cases involving violent crime, drugs, illegal immigration and sensitive national security issues.
 
But his handling of the Russia investigation is likely to be the issue at the top of mind for Democratic and Republican senators during the confirmation process.
 
“I do think he is worthy of consideration. I am concerned he has said some negative things about the special counsel's office and some of the prosecutors he had in place,” Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday on MSNBC.  
 
Over the past two years, Barr has expressed agreement with some of Trump’s views on the Russia investigation. He has questioned whether Mueller’s team of investigators is plagued by political bias.
 
“I would have liked to see [Mueller] have more balance on this group,” he told The Washington Post last year, citing political donations to Democrats made by some attorneys on Mueller’s team.
 
He also told The New York Times in November 2017 there is a greater basis for an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRonan Farrow exposes how the media protect the powerful Kamala Harris to Trump Jr.: 'You wouldn't know a joke if one raised you' Comey says he has a 'fantasy' about deleting his Twitter account after end of Trump term MORE’s alleged involvement in a uranium deal with Russia than the Mueller probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow’s election interference in 2016.
 
“To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility,” Barr said of the Justice Department.
 
Barr also suggested Mueller’s team may have been behind leaks of sensitive details of the investigation, including whether Trump was the target of an obstruction probe.
 
“Leaks by any investigation are deplorable and raise questions as to whether there is an agenda,” Barr told The Hill in June 2017.