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William Barr's only 'flaw' is that he was nominated by Trump

William Barr's only 'flaw' is that he was nominated by Trump
© Greg Nash

When former Attorney General 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 was fired by President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE a few months ago, Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar MORE (D-N.Y.) said the firing was bringing the country a step closer to a constitutional crisis because of fears that Sessions’ replacement would undermine special counsel 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 investigation into:

When Matt WhitakerMatthew G WhitakerEx-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ GOP pollster says Dems are relitigating 2016 election with investigations of Trump Former senior FBI official calls Whitaker hearing ‘disgraceful’ MORE was appointed as the acting attorney general to fill the vacancy created by Sessions’ departure, many critics claimed it was a constitutional crisis because before he was named Sessions’ chief of staff and acting AG, he made statements in the media that were critical of the Mueller investigation. 

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Remarkably, since the firing of Sessions and the appointment of Whitaker, the “constitutional crisis” has not erupted, and the Republic has not fallen. Moreover, there is no evidence that the special counsel investigation has been halted or curtailed.  

Hearings in the Senate began on Tuesday to consider President Trump’s nomination of William Barr, who is a worthy successor to Jeff Sessions. In terms of track record, his is about as strong as you could ask for. 

During President George H. W. Bush’s administration, Barr served as attorney general, deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general at the Office of Legal Counsel. After government service, he became the general counsel at Verizon, and he has served on the board of TimeWarner. 

His is a career marked with distinction and accomplishment. In his prepared testimony, Barr wrote that he was not anxious to be nominated, but he stated, “I believe in public service, I revere the law, and I love the Department of Justice and the dedicated professionals who serve there.” 

In a time when everything is viewed through a partisan lens, a nominee like William Barr is the ideal choice to oversee the Department of Justice. 

The first day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Barr nomination focused on the special counsel investigation. Barr said:

This should be music to the ears of Trump’s critics. One would hope that the stale claim of “constitutional crisis” could be retired. If President Trump’s goal was to derail the special counsel investigation by nominating William Barr, he has failed miserably. 

But, Judiciary Committee Democrats, some of whom aspire to run for president in 2020, were not mollified.

The root of their objections is a memorandum Barr wrote last summer to Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Media leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations MORE in which he expressed skepticism about the merits of the obstruction of justice aspect of the Mueller investigation and his refusal to agree with Democratic Senators that his authorship of the memorandum requires that he recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel. 

Is this the true reason for opposing Barr’s nomination? Barr’s real problem is not that he wrote the memorandum or refuses to recuse himself for no reason. Barr’s problem is that he was nominated by Trump. 

Let’s look at some numbers for recent attorney general nominees: Obama Attorney General-nominee Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderObama planning first post-2020 fundraiser Democratic group launches seven-figure ad campaign on voting rights bill Biden: 'Simply wrong' for Trump DOJ to seek journalists' phone records MORE was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 17-2, and the full Senate vote was 75-21, with many Republicans joining in support. 

Obama Attorney General-nominee Loretta Lynch was approved by the committee with a vote of 12-8, with three Republicans in support, and the full Senate vote was 56-43 with 10 Republicans in support. 

In comparison, Jeff Sessions received a committee vote of 11-9, with no Democrats in support, and the full Senate vote was 52-47 with only one Democrat in support. Will the outcome for Barr be any different? Let’s hope so. 

It would be disappointing and further evidence of Washington dysfunction if one of the most qualified attorney general nominees ever does not receive strong bipartisan support. Call your senators and tell them to vote for William Barr.

Matthew Heiman is a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law. Previously, he was a lawyer with the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Iraq.