William Barr, pictured during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Jan. 9, has been confirmed as the next attorney general of the United States.
William Barr, pictured during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Jan. 9, has been confirmed as the next attorney general of the United States. [Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images]

Senate Confirms William Barr As Next Attorney General

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Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET

The Senate voted 54-45 on Thursday to confirm William Barr as attorney general, returning him to a post he first occupied in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Barr was scheduled to be sworn in at the White House on Thursday afternoon by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Barr’s confirmation followed an earlier vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to advance him after a committee hearing in which members pressed him about the Russia investigation.

Republicans, including the panel’s chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., say they’re satisfied that Barr will not interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller.

They have accepted his commitments about making public whatever Mueller issues when his work is complete, so long as it is consistent with the law or regulations.

Democrats worry that Barr might be a spy for President Trump at the Justice Department and they say that Barr hasn’t promised unconditionally that he’ll release a report by Mueller if the special counsel’s office completes one.

Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 presidential election. Trump and his aides say there was no collusion and that they’ve done nothing wrong.

The outcome of Thursday’s vote on Barr had been expected; Republicans control a majority in the chamber and a few Democrats also had spoken generally in support of him.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones had said definitively before the fact that he would vote for Barr, and he was as good as his word. Democrats Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia also voted for Barr.

The confirmation now starts a countdown clock for a full change of leadership at the Justice Department. Barr is to replace Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, whose next role is as yet unclear, and Barr also is expected to bring on a new deputy attorney general.

The current deputy, Rod Rosenstein, is expected to stay on for some time as part of a transition period while Barr gets acclimated, but the Justice Department has said there wasn’t a solid timetable for the nomination of a new deputy or the departure of Rosenstein.

Barr is the second of two people to serve twice as attorney general, the Justice Department said; the first was John Crittenden, who served in 1841 and then again from 1850 to 1853, first under President William Henry Harrison and then in the administration of President Millard Fillmore.

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