President Trump on Friday nominated William Barr as the next U.S. attorney general.
Barr, who previously served as attorney general for two years under President George H.W. Bush, would replace acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker atop the Justice Department if confirmed.
Barr “was my first choice since day one,” Trump told reporters, adding that the former AG is “respected by Republicans, respected by Democrats,” and that he hopes the confirmation process “will go very quickly.”
Barr, 68, supported Trump’s call last year for a renewed Justice Department investigation of Hillary Clinton and said there should be “more balance” among the prosecutors on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as it investigates Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Acting attorney general Whitaker has been fiercely criticized by Democrats as lacking the experience for the job. He has also faced calls to recuse himself from the Russia investigation based on previous comments he made criticizing the probe.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is an investigation that should have never been brought,” Trump said of the Mueller inquiry in response to reporters’ questions on Whitaker’s appointment. “It’s an illegal investigation.”
Whitaker replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the very first senator to endorse his campaign in February 2016, who was forced out of the job by Trump last month. The ouster came after Trump griped for months and publicly attacked Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of the Mueller investigation.