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Senate confirms Trump nominee William Barr as attorney general

He takes over the position with the special counsel's report on Trump and Russian collusion expected to land on his desk within weeks.
Image: Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Attorney General Nominee William Barr
Barr's confirmation, which required only a simple majority in the full Senate, had been expected to pass easily given the chamber's new 53-47 GOP majority.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm William Barr as attorney general, 54-45.

The confirmation of President Donald Trump's nominee, who will oversee special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, had been expected given the GOP's 53-47 control of the chamber. He was sworn in several hours later at the White House.

During his confirmation hearing last month, Barr told Congress that he believes Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign should continue unimpeded.

Republicans praised Barr as a steadying presence, with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeting that his confirmation was a "victory for the rule of law."

"He is a steady hand at a time of turmoil and he will bring much needed reform to the Department of Justice," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

Several Democrats who did not support the nomination pointed to the incoming attorney general's views on executive power, with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., saying he had been "concerned with the views Mr. Barr expressed on the unitary executive theory and expansive presidential power. We need an Attorney General who recognizes the need for checks and balances, including within the Executive Branch."

Barr, who was to be sworn in at the White House later Thursday afternoon, will assume the nation's top law enforcement position with the results of Mueller's probe expected to land on his desk in a matter of weeks.

Democrats questioned at his confirmation hearing whether he would make public the results of Mueller's investigation, as Barr suggested that neither the Mueller report nor even a redacted version of it would be made public, but possibly only a summary written by the attorney general. The law requires only that Mueller transmit his report to the AG.

Barr also faced criticism from Democrats over an unsolicited memo he sent to the Justice Department last year in which he criticized part of the special counsel's probe as "fatally misconceived" and he was questioned about his views on executive power ability to be independent from Trump.

Barr, 68, who has been counsel at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 until 1993, following an 18-year civil service career that began at the CIA.

The new attorney general, nominated by Trump in December to replace Jeff Sessions, will be only the second person to hold the job twice. John Crittenden was the first, in the 19th century.