William Barr is officially the new Attorney General of the United States, following Thursday’s 55-44 vote in favor of his confirmation.
President Trump’s pick to head the Justice Department got the support of nearly every Republican with the exception of Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). Nearly every Democrat voted no, with the exceptions of Senators Doug Jones (D-Alabama), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona). Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) did not vote. While those three Democrats are all from states President Trump won in 2016, only Jones is up for re-election in 2020.
In his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr somewhat assuaged fears over the fate of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation by saying he wouldn’t follow a hypothetical order from President Trump to fire the special counsel without good cause if he was confirmed as Attorney General. However, Barr would be in a position to suppress certain parts of Mueller’s report from coming to light. As of this writing, he hasn’t said whether or not he would allow Congress to see the full version of the final report.
However, perhaps the most controversial part of Barr’s Attorney General hearing was his position on whether or not the Department of Justice would seek to prosecute journalists for doing their job. Because President Trump has frequently referred to journalists as “the enemy of the people,” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) confronted Barr on whether or not he felt the same way in his hearing last month.
“I can conceive of situations where as a last resort, and where a news organization has run through a red flag or something like that, knows that they’re putting out stuff that will hurt the country,” Barr testified, without elaborating on how journalism could potentially “hurt the country.”
“There could be a situation where someone could be held in contempt,” he added.
Trump told Fox & Friends last August that he felt approximately 80 percent of the news media was “fake,” and only defined “fake” as an outlet refusing to report on his policies in a positive way.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.