Washington, Feb 14 (EFE).- The full Senate on Thursday confirmed William Barr as US attorney general, thus handing him the authority to supervise the ongoing independent investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Barr, who served as attorney general during the early 1990s and was nominated for the post again by President Donald Trump last December, received the backing of 54 senators, versus 45 who voted against him.
“A major victory for justice and the rule of law in America: the Senate just confirmed President @realDonaldTrump’s outstanding nominee William Barr as Attorney General,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter.
Barr, 68, will replace Matthew Whitaker, who has been heading the Justice Department on an interim basis amid great controversy since November, when Trump tapped him for the post after firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Whitaker has never been confirmed in the post by the Senate and has been criticized by Democratic lawmakers and others as lacking the experience and being unsuited for the task.
Barr’s arrival at Justice comes at a time of growing rumors about the possibility that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the independent Russia probe, is coming to the end of his investigation and amid great anticipation among Americans about whether or not they will see the results.
Mueller, a former FBI director, has been investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to the Kremlin since May 2017 and – amid repeated calls by the president and his surrogates for him to end his probe, which the president has lambasted as a “witch hunt” – the speculation now is that he is approaching the final stages of his work and will sooner rather than later issue a detailed report on his findings.
So far, the investigation has resulted in dozens of indictments for federal crimes and at least eight guilty pleas or convictions of Trump advisers or campaign associates.
At his January Senate confirmation hearing, the new AG did not guarantee to make Mueller’s report public in its entirety once he receives it, and that refusal has sparked criticism among Democratic lawmakers.
However, during his confirmation hearing Barr did promise that Mueller will be allowed to finish his work and he emphasized his independence in the face of hypothetical “political interference,” presumably by the Trump administration, Trump himself and/or Republican lawmakers.
But he also allowed senators to see that he had points of agreement with Trump, expressing his concern over what he called the current “fixation” in the US about the risk Russia poses as Washington’s global adversary, something that he said could obscure what he considers the more pressing danger posed by China.
Barr served as AG from 1991-1993 under then-President George H.W. Bush.