Updated at 12:59 p.m. ET on May 1, 2019.
Like so many prominent Trump-administration officials before him, William Barr didn’t need this job.
He had already served once as attorney general, at the young-for-government age of 41, after a rapid rise in the first Bush administration. Barr had lived a financially comfortable life in the private sector since, doing little to dent his image as a respected Republican lawyer—perhaps close to achieving the gilded Washington status of an éminence grise.
Then Donald Trump beckoned, and as Barr, the nation’s top law-enforcement officer once again, sits for another grilling before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, another long-cultivated reputation is at risk of ruin. The revelation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote to Barr to complain that his letter summarizing the conclusions of Mueller’s 448-page report “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the two-year investigation has spurred fresh outrage at Barr’s handling of the report, including calls for his resignation or even impeachment by the House.
The Democrats questioning Barr at the previously scheduled hearing have new ammunition for their charge that the attorney general whitewashed Mueller’s report, acting more as the president’s personal lawyer than the nation’s. They will demand that he explain not only his decision to clear Trump of obstruction of justice, but the discrepancies between his characterization of Mueller’s findings and the text of the report itself. After The Washington Post reported on Mueller’s letter Tuesday night, Democrats also accused Barr of falsely telling lawmakers during testimony last month that he did not know whether Mueller agreed with his conclusion that Trump did not commit a crime. At the time of his last appearance, on April 20, Barr had already received Mueller’s letter, which was dated March 27 and asked for the immediate release of the special counsel’s executive summaries.