WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, William Barr, and shortly afterwards he was sworn in as the nation’s 85th attorney general.
The upper chamber approved the nomination 54-45.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) broke ranks and voted no, while Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Krysten Sinema (Ariz.) and Doug Jones (Ala.) voted yes.
Barr, 68, served as attorney general during the final 14 months of the administration of the late President George H.W. Bush. Prior to that position, Barr had served as both deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.
Barr has come under fire due to a December Wall Street Journal report related to an unsolicited memo he sent the Department of Justice last summer. In the memo Barr questioned the merits of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into potential collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Barr downplayed the significance of the memo. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that it offered informal guidance and that such practice is common among former high-ranking DoJ officials.
Barr attempted to allay concerns about Mueller’s continuity in office, telling the committee: “I believe it is vitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete his investigation.”
Barr also told the committee he disagreed with Trump’s characterization of the probe as a “witch hunt.”
Barr succeeds Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who assumed office last November after Trump fired then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Whitaker had served as Sessions’ chief of staff.
Last week Whitaker defended his role overseeing the Mueller probe in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Barr as his wife, Christine, held the Bible. President Donald Trump observed the closed-door ceremony in the White House’s Oval Office. The couple’s three daughters and their spouses attended, as did the Barrs’ grandchildren, according to the White House. William Barr is only the second person in the nation’s history to serve twice as attorney general, the White House said.