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) ManchinCain says he withdrew from Fed consideration because of 'pay cut' On The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed 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 MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's probe. They also say Barr is hedging on whether he will make Mueller’s findings public. 

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMenendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Dem report questions State Dept. decision to revoke award to Trump critic Senate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain 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 TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 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 FeinsteinDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions Five takeaways from Mueller's report Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates 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.