WASHINGTON — Now that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has provided Attorney General William P. Barr with a report about his investigation into Russia’s election interference, including whether any Trump associates coordinated with the Russians and whether President Trump tried to obstruct justice, what happens next is up to Mr. Barr.
Here are five things to know about the man in possession of one of the most anticipated government documents in history.
This is not Mr. Barr’s first stint as attorney general.
William Pelham Barr served as an attorney general during the George Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, replacing Dick Thornburgh, who retired for a Senate run. After leaving the Justice Department at the end of the Bush administration, Mr. Barr worked as a corporate lawyer, mostly with the telecommunications company that eventually became Verizon.
Born in New York, Mr. Barr, now 69, is married to a retired librarian, and together they have three daughters — all attorneys. One of his daughters and her husband now work at the Justice Department.
“He alone is the executive branch,” Mr. Barr wrote in an unsolicited June 8, 2018 memo. “As such, he is the sole repository of all Executive powers conferred by the Constitution.” The document appeared to criticize Mr. Mueller’s inquiry into whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice.
“Thus, the full measure of law enforcement authority is placed in the president’s hands, and no limit is placed on the kinds of cases subject to his control and supervision,” Mr. Barr wrote to senior officials at the Justice Department, months before Mr. Trump named him to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Mr. Barr was considered for Mr. Trump’s legal defense team.
Mr. Barr said during his confirmation hearing that he was approached, in June 2017, by an administration official who said he was looking for attorneys to add to the president’s defense team. Mr. Barr said he told the administration official he could not take on that role at the time, but he agreed to meet with Mr. Trump the next day.
“It was a very brief meeting where essentially the president wanted to know — he said, ‘Oh, you know Bob Mueller. How well do you know Bob Mueller?’ ” Mr. Barr told senators during his January confirmation hearing. He left his phone number with the president at the end of the meeting. Mr. Barr added: “I didn’t hear — hear from him until, you know, later, but about something different, which was the attorney general position.”
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Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller are good friends.
Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller have been friends for 30 years, dating back to their early days at the Justice Department, Mr. Barr told lawmakers in January. He said he applauded the appointment of Mr. Mueller to take over the Russia investigation. And even though he wrote an unsolicited memo that appeared to criticize parts of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, Mr. Barr said he expected their friendship to be intact after the investigation was over. (He also said he was not criticizing Mr. Mueller in his memo).
Their families are friends, as well, Mr. Barr has said. Their wives went to Bible study together, and Mr. Mueller has been a guest at two of Mr. Barr’s daughters’s weddings.
Mr. Barr once defended Mr. Trump’s calls for new investigations into Clinton.
In November 2017, Mr. Barr said there was “nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation.” He cautioned that such an investigation should only be launched if the “matter warrants investigation,” and not just because Mr. Trump wanted it.
The attorney general at the time, Mr. Sessions, assigned a group of senior Justice Department lawyers to look into some of the accusations and report back on whether a special counsel should be appointed to pursue an inquiry. The Justice Department has not opened one.