Five things to know about William Barr, the man releasing the Mueller report

The man releasing who on Thursday will release Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's redacted report on the nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign is William BarrBill BarrFederal judge rules Barr, other officials have qualified immunity from suit over Lafayette Square protests Lieu calls Catholic bishops 'hypocrites' for move to deny Biden communion The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE, 68, who became attorney general just two months ago.

Last year, President TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE has picked the Washington veteran who served as the nation’s top cop from 1991 to 1993 under former President George H.W. Bush to be his next attorney general.

He took over from acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker after his confirmation in February 2019 and succeeded Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions MORE, who ran afoul of Trump by recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Here are five key things to know about Barr.

He’s criticized Mueller's team

While Barr had not directly commented on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation prior to his nomination, he did question donations that members of the investigative team made to Democratic political candidates, including Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: The center strikes back Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE. Those comments raised questions ahead of his confirmation.

“In my view, prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post in July 2017. “I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group.”


Earlier that year, in an op-ed for the Post, Barr said Trump was right to fire FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters MORE, who was leading the investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Barr also suggested to The Washington Post that year that there should be more investigations of Clinton. He told The New York Times that he saw more basis to investigate Clinton over the Uranium One deal than there was to investigate Trump for possible collusion with Russia. Those remarks led to tough questioning from Democrats during his confirmation hearings.

George Terwilliger III, who served as deputy attorney general while Barr was leading the agency, defended the remarks of his former boss in an interview with The Hill in 2018.

“I think Bill has said nothing I’m aware of that’s critical of Bob Mueller, who worked with us at the Justice Department,” he said.

“I think you have to look closely at what he said before you make a judgment about whether it indicated any bias.”

He's a proponent of sweeping presidential power 

Barr, who spent 14 years in senior corporate positions after his time at Justice, has a sweeping view of presidential power.

In a 1989 memo to top Justice Department lawyers, which was first reported by The New York Times, Barr warned against Congress trying to encroach on the president’s authority. He cited attempts to interfere with the president’s appointment power, constrain his ability to fire officials and attempts from lawmakers to gain access to sensitive executive branch information.

“Only by consistently and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive branch prerogatives be preserved,” Barr wrote.

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University professor of law and contributor to The Hill, said Barr views the powers the Constitution vests to the president as the heartbeat of government.

“He’s an Article II guy,” he said. “He views presidential power as the leading edge of American policy.”

He thinks Roe v. Wade should be overruled  

As noted by Fox News, Barr said during his Senate confirmation hearing in 1991 that he thinks the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide should be overturned.

“I think that the basic issue is whether or not abortion should be something that is decided by society, by the people, the extent to which it is permitted, the extent to which it is regulated, that those are legitimate issues for state legislatures to deal with, and that’s where the decisionmaking authority should be,” he said.

“Roe v. Wade basically, in my view, took it away from the states and found an absolute right in the Constitution, foreclosed any kind of role for society to place regulations on abortion, and I don't think that opinion was the right opinion.”

He was tough on crime

Barr’s selection put advocates for criminal justice reform on edge.

As attorney general in the 1990s, when violent crime rates were at an all-time high, Barr, like many conservatives and liberals, thought prisons were the answer.

Barr penned a memo in 1992 to the Justice Department titled “The Case for More Incarceration,” in which he advocated for building more prisons to house more inmates.


“Prisons do not create criminals,” he said in the report. “We are not over-incarcerating. In fact, we could reduce crime by simply limiting probation and parole — by putting criminals in prison for a greater portion of their sentences.”

“A reasonable question is, ‘Is this still how he feels today?'" Ames Grawert, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said of Barr’s views. “The answer seems to be yes.”

Grawert noted that Barr signed onto a letter in 2015 opposing the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a bill that aimed to reduce the prison population by cutting mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent offenders.

The bill hit a wall in Congress, but some of its sentencing reform provisions were incorporated into a prison reform bill, known as the First Step Act, which had Trump’s backing and was signed into law in December 2018.

He has strong ties to Justice  

Barr has been referred to as a product of the executive branch.

Before he was named the 77th attorney general, Barr served in the CIA and Reagan White House. He also previously served as assistant attorney general and deputy attorney general.  

“That’s a lot of experience inside the department to bring that bears on managing the place,” Terwilliger said.

Barr had a familial tie to the office at the time of nomination, too. His daughter Mary Daly served as a senior Justice Department official overseeing the agency’s efforts to combat opioid abuse and addiction, The Washington Post reported. CNN reported the day before Barr's confirmation that she was leaving for the Treasury Department's financial crimes unit.

Despite his strong ties to the agency, the former corporate lawyer has clashed with a top department official in his role as a member of Time Warner’s board of directors.

In November 2017, Makan Delrahim, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, met with a group of Time Warner executives that included Barr, while considering whether to intervene in the media giant's $85 billion merger with AT&T.

According to Delrahim's account of the meeting, detailed in court documents made public in October, Time Warner general counsel Paul Cappuccio “stood up from his seat at the conference table, wagged his finger at me, and said that if the Antitrust Division goes through with [a lawsuit], the case will be ‘a s---show like you've never seen,’ and that it would be like ‘Jimmy Hoffa and the firing of Jim Corney.’ ”

In his own sworn statement submitted to federal court, Barr called Delrahim’s account “inaccurate and incomplete” and said he had no recollection of Cappuccio wagging his finger at Delrahim or referencing Comey and Hoffa.

Delrahim told The Hill that he thought Barr was an excellent choice for the attorney general position.

“I have known and admired Attorney General Barr for many years, and was honored he accepted my invitation to be with us last year as we dedicated the new Rill Fellowship program in honor of a mutual friend, former Assistant Attorney General Jim Rill," he said in a statement. "General Barr is a friend and an excellent choice by the President to continue the strong law and order policies of this Administration.”

Harper Neidig contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story was updated with a new intro and headline on April 18, 2019 to reflect Barr's confirmation and work as attorney general. It was originally posted after his nomination.