Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Bill Barr: An Independent Voice and Bipartisan Choice for AG

Next Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Bill Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general.  Barr is a remarkable and deeply experienced choice, having previously served as attorney general in President George H.W. Bush’s administration (at the age of 41, no less). It’s hard to think of someone more qualified for the job.  Another former attorney general, Michael Mukasey, believes that Barr is “probably the best-qualified nominee for U.S. attorney general since Robert Jackson in 1940.” High praise indeed.

Over the course of his distinguished career Barr—now 68—has amassed a wealth of legal and executive experience that truly runs the gamut.  Before serving as attorney general from 1991-1993, Barr was in the number two spot at DOJ as deputy attorney general, overseeing federal criminal prosecutions and policy nationwide.  And before that, Barr led the Office of Legal Counsel—known as the DOJ’s “brain trust”—advising the White House on the Bush administration’s most complex legal questions.  Barr also worked in the Reagan White House from 1982-1983.

Barr has equally impressive experience in the private sector.  Barr served as general counsel and executive vice-president of Verizon for 15 years.  After retiring from Verizon, Barr joined Kirkland & Ellis LLP, one of the nation’s top law firms.  Oh, and did I mention that he’s argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court?  It’s not surprising that the Boston Herald believes that Barr is “eminently qualified for the position” of attorney general.

In addition to being an outstanding lawyer, Barr is known for his independence and ferocity. George Terwilliger III—who served under Barr asdeputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration—describes Barr as being “without fear of political pressures from any side.”  And Ted Olsen, former solicitor general to President George W. Bush, likewise says Barr is someone who “isn’t going to wilt in the face of heavy fire” and who has “the ability to withstand pressure from many directions.” Even Sen. Patrick Leahy said in 1991 that Barr would be “an independent voice for all Americans—not just the President” if confirmed as attorney general. These attributes are precisely what the country needs in our next attorney general.

In 1991, Barr was unanimously confirmed to be attorney general with a voice vote.  It’s hard to imagine history repeating itself 28 years later in light of the unprecedented Democratic obstruction that we have witnessed the last two years (although Sen. Leahy recently acknowledged that Barr could garner bipartisan support). But in Bill Barr, President Trump has nominated a supremely accomplished lawyer who will run the DOJ with independence and excellence.  He deserves swift and overwhelming confirmation.

Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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