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William Barr expected to be confirmed as attorney general Thursday



William P. Barr is likely to be confirmed Thursday as the U.S. attorney general, putting him in command of the Justice Department at one of the most politically charged moments in its history.

Barr, a Justice Department veteran who served as attorney general previously in the George H.W. Bush administration, has but one hurdle left to clear to become the country’s top law enforcement officer — full Senate confirmation. Lawmakers are expected to vote on his nomination at some point Thursday, though the precise time is unclear. The outcome is all but guaranteed, after Barr cleared a procedural hurdle by a 55-to-44 vote that was mostly along party lines.

Once Barr is confirmed, he will be thrust into supervising the special counsel probe into whether President Trump’s campaign worked with Russia to swing the 2016 election — and will be saddled with the political baggage that comes with it. Trump has attacked special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team relentlessly, deeming their investigation a “witch hunt” and vigorously disputing that he did anything wrong.

Barr, who has said he considers Mueller a friend, will oversee the probe at a particularly sensitive time, as it is widely presumed that Mueller is nearing the end of his work and lawmakers and the public are growing eager to learn his conclusions.

A person familiar with the matter said Barr, who has visited the Justice Department frequently in recent weeks, already has had preliminary discussions about the logistics surrounding Mueller’s endgame. The person stressed, though, that Barr has not been briefed on the substance of Mueller’s investigation and that the discussions about the logistics of its conclusion have been far from advanced.

Perhaps Barr’s most critical decision will be what — if anything — to tell Congress and the public about what Mueller tells him.

The special counsel regulations call for Mueller to provide the attorney general with a “confidential report” explaining who he did and did not decide to prosecute, and for Barr to notify Congress of the investigation’s end and of any steps Mueller wanted to take that were vetoed.

The regulations give Barr some latitude to release information publicly, though Barr noted at his confirmation hearing that under normal circumstances, prosecutors would not reveal information about those they choose not to charge. Irking some lawmakers, he declined to guarantee he would release Mueller’s findings in full, though he has vowed to be as transparent as possible.

Once Barr is confirmed, it is expected Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein will step down soon thereafter — though he has told people close to him that he is willing to stay on to ensure a smooth transition. His departure would leave the Justice Department’s No. 2 and No. 3 positions unfilled by Senate-confirmed leaders.

A person familiar with the matter said Barr has all but identified a possible replacement for Rosenstein and is also contemplating who might fill the No. 3 spot. The president nominates people for each spot, though people familiar with the matter have said Barr was assured he would be able to select his own deputy. The nominations could be announced in the coming weeks, a person familiar with the matter said.

This story was originally published by Washington Post

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