WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) confirmed that his initial opposition could be an “uh-oh” for President Trump’s pick to lead the Justice Department.
Trump said Friday that he expects the nomination of William Barr, a former attorney general in George H.W. Bush’s administration, to be completed by the Senate “very quickly.”
“A terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man. I did not know him for — until recently, when I went through the process of looking at people,” Trump told reporters. “And he was my first choice from Day One. Respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats. He will be nominated for the United States attorney general.”
Barr, 68, spent time in the corporate world after leaving the Justice Department and is currently counsel at Kirkland & Ellis.
“I’m concerned that he’s been a big supporter of the Patriot Act, which lowered the standard for spying on Americans. And he even went so far as to say, you know, the Patriot Act was pretty good, but we should go much further,” Paul told NBC this morning.
“I’m disturbed that he’s been a big fan of taking people’s property, civil asset forfeiture, without a conviction. Many poor people in our country have cash taken from them and then the government says, prove to us where you got the cash, and then you can get it back. But the burden is on the individual,” Paul continued. “It’s a terrible thing called civil asset forfeiture. He’s a big fan of that.”
“I haven’t made a decision yet on him. But I can tell you the first things that I’ve learned about him being for more surveillance of Americans is very, very troubling.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the confirmation process will be held off until next year, when Republicans will have two more votes in the upper chamber and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will lead the committee.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CBS he “can’t comment” on whether he supports Barr or not.
“I haven’t even begun to review his qualifications or his record in the past,” Rubio said. “I know he’s been through the Senate process before. I’m going to watch the Judiciary process very closely. At the appropriate time, I will meet with the nominee and get my own take on it. And then I will have a decision to make.”
“I generally do not support nominees, for the most part, unless I know them personally and well, until they have worked their way through the committee process. So I know he’s gone through this process before. There’s plenty of record out there for us to review before we make that decision,” the senator continued. “So, right now, I don’t know if I support him or not. I hope I can, because I think that’s an important role that we need to fill. But I need to learn more about the nominee and about what he’s done in the past before I can make that decision.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, separately told the network that there’s “certainly reason for concern” about Barr but “there’s no question about his qualifications for the job.”
“He’s already had the job. And I think there are a great many people who thought highly of him in that position,” Schiff said. “But his comments about Comey, his comments about the composition of Mueller’s team, his comments of most concern to me, frankly, that it’s perfectly fine, essentially, for a president to recommend prosecution of his political rivals, and, what’s more, Justice ought to look into that, those kind of comments raise questions about bias and about judgment.”
“And in the confirmation hearings, I think those need to be probed deeply,” he added. “I think the Senate also needs to exact a commitment from him that he will not interfere in the Mueller investigation and that he will be sure that the Mueller report is ultimately made public.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who will be the Senate majority whip in the 116th Congress, said that the confirmation process “shouldn’t be all that difficult” as Barr “has a long record in public life, and also has held this position previously.”
“My guess is that, when it’s all said and done, if it — when it comes to a vote in the full Senate, that he will have strong support. I would hope that he would have strong support from Democrats in the Senate, as well as Republicans,” Thune told CBS. “He is, we know, very qualified, and I think has a proven record of accomplishment as a lawyer both in the private sector and his work in government as well.”
“But we will await the process, allow it to move forward and the confirmation hearings to get under way,” he added. “But I would suspect his prospects would be pretty good, at least if you looked at it at this point we’re trying to handicap it.”