8 Dec 2018

Trump announces another round of Cabinet changes

7:18 am on 8 December 2018

President Donald Trump has nominated William Barr to be the new attorney general, a post he held in the 1990s.

United States President Donald J. Trump speaks to the media.

US President Donald Trump has picked the two people he wants to be the next US attorney general and next US ambassador to the United Nations. Photo: 123RF

By replacing Jeff Sessions, who was fired by Mr Trump last month, the 68-year-old will take charge of the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

US media report he has been critical of some aspects of that inquiry.

A well-known conservative lawyer, Mr Barr held the role under President George H W Bush from 1991 to 1993.

The president called him a "highly respected lawyer" by both Republicans and Democrats and "a terrific man" while speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn.

In the same statement, Mr Trump confirmed reports he is pushing for Heather Nauert to be the new US ambassador to the United Nations.

Both are posts that have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Currently, Mr Barr is counsel at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm in Washington DC.

If Mr Barr is confirmed by the senate after his official nomination, he will replace the current acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker.

Mr Whitaker had been a controversial pick from the start due to his views on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry.

Mr Trump has repeatedly lashed out at the investigation, calling it a "witch hunt".

When he selected Mr Whitaker to replace Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the inquiry, Democrats feared Mr Whitaker would bring an end to the special counsel's work.

Democrats say they will definitely press Mr Barr on his views regarding protecting Mr Mueller and his work, during his confirmation hearings.

Who is William Barr?

The 68-year-old Republican lawyer has an impressive political resume, spanning the CIA, White House and Department of Justice.

Mr Barr holds degrees in government and Chinese studies from Columbia University.

While studying law at George Washington University, he worked at the CIA from 1973-1977.

As a young lawyer, he clerked for the DC appeals court.

For a year, Mr Barr was a member of President Ronald Reagan's domestic policy staff at the White House; a role he eventually left to pursue corporate law.

In 1989, he was appointed by President Bush to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. He was promoted to deputy attorney general next, and then to the top role.

After passing his senate confirmation hearing unanimously, he served as the 77th US attorney general from 1991-1993.

As the top US law official at that time, he oversaw Robert Mueller, who was then leading the department's criminal division.

Mr Barr retired from his position as counsel and executive vice-president of Verizon in 2008.

What has he said about the Russia inquiry?

Mr Barr has voiced disapproval over some aspects of the inquiry but his views on the investigation's legitimacy remain unknown.

He has said that Robert Mueller hired too many prosecutors with Democratic campaign ties for his investigative team - telling the Washington Post he "would have liked to see [Mueller] have more balance".

In a 2017 opinion piece for the Post, Mr Barr said Mr Trump had been right to fire FBI director James Comey because he "crossed a line" by announcing the outcome of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.

He has also defended Mr Trump's desire for a criminal investigation against Hillary Clinton to the New York Times, adding that some of her actions merited an inquiry more than any Trump-Russia collusion.

The Times has described Mr Barr as a lawyer with a vision for broad presidential powers, but also one who sees the attorney general's duty as avoiding political considerations.

- BBC / Reuters

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