President Trump’s announcement that he will nominate William Barr to serve as U.S. attorney general — a position Barr also held under President George H.W. Bush — eases concerns that he would seek to replace ousted Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions with a loyalist with meager legal credentials. But Barr needs to convince the U.S. Senate of something far more important than his undeniable qualifications: his commitment to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III from White House interference.
Such an assurance is important first and foremost because of Trump’s outrageous attacks on Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. But it’s also necessary because of past statements by Barr that echo some of Trump’s jabs at Mueller.
Last year Barr commented critically on the fact that some of Mueller’s prosecutors had made political contributions to Democratic candidates, adding that he would have liked Mueller to “have more balance.” Trump, of course, has alleged that Mueller’s probe is a partisan “witch hunt” conducted by “Angry Dems.”
Barr also seemed to defend Trump’s call for a Justice Department investigation of Hillary Clinton, telling the New York Times last year: “There is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation.” That falls far short of saying “Lock her up,” and Barr did add that “an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a president wants it.” But his comment was still troubling.
Finally, Barr suggested that Clinton’s limited role as secretary of state in approving a Russian agency’s acquisition of a majority stake in a uranium company was worthier of investigation than a possible conspiracy involving Trump campaign associates and Russia. Trump has called the uranium deal ”the biggest story that Fake Media doesn't want to follow!”