Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general

The Senate voted Thursday to approve William Barr as attorney general, giving the Justice Department its first confirmed chief since President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE ousted Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report Bottom Line DOJ inquiry tied to Clinton, touted by Trump winds down with no tangible results: report MORE last fall.

Senators voted 54-45 for Barr’s nomination, capping off a relatively low-drama fight over Trump’s second pick for the post. Barr was largely on a glide path after he cleared the Judiciary Committee and a procedural vote without any missteps that threatened GOP support for his nomination.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Graham on impeachment trial: 'End this crap as quickly as possible' MORE (Ky.) was the only Republican who voted against Barr on Thursday, while Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer Poll: West Virginia voters would view Manchin negatively if he votes to convict Trump Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (W.Va.), Doug Jones (Ala.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) broke with their party and supported him.

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Democrats have 47 seats in the Senate. With Manchin, Jones and Sinema voting earlier in the week to advance Barr’s nomination, Democrats would have needed to flip six Republicans in addition to Paul to sink his nomination.

But Republicans largely rallied behind Barr, who previously served as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush and is returning to the helm of a department that has been at the center of Trump's longtime criticism over the federal Russia probe.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Democratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, characterized Barr as an “outstanding” pick to lead the agency, which has been under the leadership of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker since Sessions was ousted in November.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate begins preparations for Trump trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads MORE (R-Iowa), the former chairman and current member of the Judiciary panel, added that Barr will be “a straight shooter and an individual who is willing to engage in productive discussion with Congress.”

Democrats have raised concerns for weeks over Barr’s views on executive power and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s probe into the 2016 election. As attorney general, Barr is set to take over oversight of the investigation, which is also reportedly examining whether Trump sought to obstruct justice by interfering in the probe.

Trump's fight with former top law enforcement officials was brought back into the forefront on Thursday after former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeMcCabe accuses Trump officials of withholding evidence in lawsuit over firing McCabe: Being accused of treason by Trump 'quite honestly terrifying' Horowitz report is damning for the FBI and unsettling for the rest of us MORE revealed that he opened a probe into whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyNYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' MORE in May 2017.

McCabe also said that top Justice Department officials were so concerned about Trump’s decision to fire Comey that they discussed an effort to remove him from office by invoking the 25th Amendment. Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinJournalist alleging Obama administration spied on her seeks to reopen case Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' Rod Rosenstein joins law and lobbying firm MORE, who has been overseeing the special counsel's Russia probe since 2017, has denied the 25th Amendment talk.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it MORE (D-N.Y.) said before the vote on Barr on Thursday that the circumstances around Mueller’s probe make the threshold for supporting an attorney general nominee higher than normal.

“The next attorney general must be a public servant in the truest sense, with the integrity, the force of will, and the independence to navigate the Justice Department – and maybe our democracy – through treacherous waters. Mr. Barr’s attitude: leave it to me. That is not good enough,” Schumer said.

He added that Barr “does not recognize nor appreciate the moment we’re in."

Barr circulated an unsolicited memo on Mueller’s probe last year, including with the White House, describing the investigation as based on a “fatally misconceived” theory and as something that would do “lasting damage” to the presidency.

Barr told senators during his confirmation hearing last month that he would let Mueller finish his investigation, that Trump would not be allowed to "correct" Mueller's final report and that he would make Mueller's findings public in accordance with the law.

Democratic Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDNC announces new criteria for New Hampshire debate The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (N.J.), who is running for his party’s 2020 nomination, also pointed to Barr’s views on criminal justice reform and racial inequality within the justice system as part of the reason he voted against the nomination.

“We need an attorney general that grasps the urgency of the moment, who is aware of the impact of the Department of Justice on communities across this country,” Booker said, “and who is willing and prepared to protect our most fundamental rights.”

Paul, the only Republican to vote "no," said he had concerns about Barr’s views on privacy. Paul has frequently sparred with GOP leadership on surveillance and foreign policy issues. He voted against CIA Director Gina Haspel last year and threatened to vote against Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request House panel reinvites Pompeo to deliver Iran testimony MORE’s secretary of State nomination before doing a last-minute reversal.

“I have too many concerns about the record and views of this nominee. Bill Barr was a leading proponent of warrantless surveillance, and his overall record on the Fourth Amendment is troubling to me. I remain concerned that Bill Barr does not agree with our bipartisan efforts to reform our criminal justice system,” Paul said after an initial vote earlier this week.

He added that he believed Barr also has a “troubling record on the Second Amendment.”

Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under Bush. He’s also spent more than a decade in corporate roles before joining the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

He’ll succeed Whitaker in the top Justice Department spot. Whitaker, who was previously Sessions’s chief of staff, has been filling the role in an acting capacity. Whitaker’s views on Mueller have earned him criticism from Congress, including his suggestion that Mueller would be crossing a “red line” by investigating Trump’s finances.

Updated: 1:40 p.m.