In a White House unsettled by the ongoing Russia probe—and unprepared for its conclusion—the president on Friday signaled a solution to at least one of the many problems before him: who would permanently replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Heading to Marine One on the South Lawn, Donald Trump said he intends to nominate William Barr, a former attorney general under George H. W. Bush, to take over the Justice Department.
“He was my first choice since day one,” Trump told reporters. “He’ll be nominated.”
If confirmed, Barr would take over a department roiled by the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russians. Sessions resigned in November after enduring nearly two years of attacks from the president over his recusal from the Russia investigation. The department has been headed in the meantime by Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, who had been Sessions’s chief of staff.
Leading Democrats have contested Whitaker’s appointment, saying he could not lawfully serve as attorney general because he had not been confirmed by the Senate. They also said Whitaker should not be overseeing the Mueller probe, given comments he had made as a cable-news commentator before joining the Trump administration about the illegitimacy of the investigation. As it happened, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has continued overseeing the work of the special counsel since Whitaker’s interim appointment.