Doug Jones will back Barr for attorney general

Doug Jones will back Barr for attorney general
© Greg Nash

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) said on Thursday that he will support William Barr’s attorney general nomination, becoming the first Democrat to do so.

“I have concluded that Mr. Barr is qualified for the position of Attorney General and his record strongly suggests he will exercise independent judgment and uphold the best interests of the Department of Justice,” Jones said in a statement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to vote on Barr’s nomination Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on it this month.

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Jones is on the ballot in 2020 in the deeply red state of Alabama and is widely viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent.

Democrats already faced an uphill climb to block Barr’s nomination. With 47 seats they would have needed to flip four Republican senators. With Jones’s defection, they’ll need to flip five.

Other potential swing votes, including Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) Manchin The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Trump, lawmakers consider app that would conduct background checks: report Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks MORE (D-W.Va.), have not said how they will vote. 

Democrats say they remain concerned about an unsolicited memo Barr sent last year that was critical of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE's probe. They also say Barr is hedging on whether he will make Mueller’s findings public. 

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew Coons The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Democratic senator warns O'Rourke AR-15 pledge could haunt party for years Scalise says it's unclear if bipartisan deal on guns will happen MORE (D-Del.) announced shortly before Thursday's vote that he would not support Barr, saying he remained "troubled" about the Mueller memo, as well as Barr's views on executive power. 

"I believe that my responsibility to assess Mr. Barr’s candidacy requires me to consider Mr. Barr’s entire record, including his more recent writings and statements, and to focus on Mr. Barr’s ability to meet the tests of our current time," Coons said. 

Barr told senators during his confirmation hearing last month that he would let Mueller finish his investigation, that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE would not be allowed to “correct” his final report and that he would make Mueller’s findings public in accordance with the law.

Currently under Justice Department guidelines, a special counsel sends a confidential report to the attorney general “explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached” during an investigation.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings GOP senators object to White House delaying home-state projects for border wall MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, said Thursday that it was "particularly concerning" that Barr would not commit to sharing Mueller's report and findings with Congress.

Feinstein also pointed to the Mueller memo, saying that under Barr's theory "the president is above the law in most respects." 

"Taken to its natural conclusion none of our laws would apply to the president unless the president is explicitly named," Feinstein said. "The only conclusion is that the president is above the law. That's stunning." 

Updated at 12:54 p.m.