William P. Barr

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
William P. Barr
William Barr, official photo as Attorney General.jpg
United States Attorney General
Taking office
President Donald Trump
Succeeding Matthew Whitaker (Acting)
In office
November 26, 1991 – January 20, 1993
President George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Dick Thornburgh
Succeeded by Janet Reno
25th United States Deputy Attorney General
In office
May 1990 – November 26, 1991
President George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Donald B. Ayer
Succeeded by George J. Terwilliger III
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
In office
April 1989 – May 1990
President George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Douglas Kmiec
Succeeded by J. Michael Luttig
Personal details
Born William Pelham Barr
(1950-05-23) May 23, 1950 (age 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Education Columbia University (BA, MA)
George Washington University (JD)
*Pending Senate confirmation

William Pelham Barr (born May 23, 1950) is an American attorney who served as the 77th Attorney General of the United States. He is a Republican and served as Attorney General from 1991 to 1993 during the administration of President George H. W. Bush.

On December 7, 2018, President Donald Trump announced that he would be nominating Barr to again serve as Attorney General of the United States, to succeed Jeff Sessions.[1]

Early life, education, and career

Barr was born in New York City, the son of Columbia University faculty members Mary Margaret (Ahern) and Donald Barr.[2] He grew up on the Upper West Side, and attended the Corpus Christi School and Horace Mann School. He received his B.A. degree in government in 1971 and his M.A. degree in government and Chinese studies in 1973, both from Columbia University. He received his J.D. degree with highest honors in 1977 from the George Washington University Law School.[3]

From 1973-77, he was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Barr was a law clerk to Judge Malcolm Wilkey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1977 through 1978. He served on the domestic policy staff at the Reagan White House from 1982 to 1983. He was also in private practice for nine years with the Washington law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.[4]

Department of Justice

File:President George H. W. Bush signs the Civil Rights Commission Reauthorization Act in the Rose Garden of the White House.jpg
Barr and Dan Quayle watch as President George H. W. Bush signs the Civil Rights Commission Reauthorization Act in the Rose Garden of the White House in 1991

During 1989, at the beginning of his administration, President George H. W. Bush appointed Barr to the U.S. Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, an office which functions as the legal advisor for the President and executive agencies. Barr was known as a strong defender of Presidential power and wrote advisory opinions justifying the U.S. invasion of Panama and arrest of Manuel Noriega, and a controversial opinion that the F.B.I. could enter onto foreign soil without the consent of the host government to apprehend fugitives wanted by the United States government for terrorism or drug-trafficking.[5]

During May 1990, Barr was appointed Deputy Attorney General, the official responsible for day-to-day management of the Department. According to media reports, Barr was generally praised for his professional management of the Department.[6]

Acting Attorney General of the United States

During August 1991, when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh resigned to campaign for the Senate, Barr was named Acting Attorney General.[7] Three days after Barr accepted that position, 121 Cuban inmates, awaiting deportation to Cuba as extremely violent criminals, seized 9 hostages at the Talladega federal prison. He directed the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team to assault the prison, which resulted in rescuing all hostages without loss of life.[8]

Nomination and confirmation

It was reported that President Bush was impressed with Barr's management of the hostage crisis, and weeks later, President Bush nominated him as Attorney General.[9]

Barr's two-day confirmation hearing was "unusually placid" and he received a good reception from both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.[10] Asked whether he thought a constitutional right to privacy included the right to an abortion, Barr responded that he believed the constitution was not originally intended to create a right to abortion; that Roe v. Wade was thus wrongly decided; and that abortion should be a "legitimate issue for state legislators".[10] Committee Chairman, Senator Joe Biden, though disagreeing with Barr, responded that it was the "first candid answer" he had heard from a nominee on a question that witnesses would normally evade.[11] Barr was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chairman Biden hailed Barr as "a throwback to the days when we actually had attorneys general that would talk to you."[11]

Attorney General of the United States



The media described Barr as staunchly conservative.[12] The New York Times described the "central theme" of his tenure to be: "his contention that violent crime can be reduced only by expanding Federal and state prisons to jail habitual violent offenders."[12] At the same time, reporters consistently described Barr as affable with a dry, self-deprecating wit.[13]

Subsequent career

After his tenure at the Department of Justice, Barr spent more than 14 years as a senior corporate executive. At the end of 2008 he retired from Verizon Communications, having served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of GTE Corporation from 1994 until that company merged with Bell Atlantic to become Verizon. During his corporate tenure, Barr directed a successful litigation campaign by the local telephone industry to achieve deregulation by scuttling a series of FCC rules, personally arguing several cases in the federal courts of appeals and the Supreme Court.[14] Barr currently serves with several corporate boards.[citation needed]

In his adopted home state of Virginia, Barr was appointed during 1994 by then-Governor George Allen to co-chair a commission to reform the criminal justice system and abolish parole in the state.[15] He served on the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg from 1997 to 2005.[16]

He became an independent director of Time Warner (now WarnerMedia) in July 2009.

In 2009, Barr was of counsel to Kirkland & Ellis and joined the firm in 2017.[17]

On December 6, 2018, it was reported that President Donald Trump was considering Barr to be Attorney General.[18][19] On December 7, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Barr for Attorney General. [20]

Policy positions


As deputy attorney general, Barr successfully challenged a proposed rule by the Department of Health and Human Services to allow people with HIV/AIDS into the United States.[21] He also advocated the use of Guantanamo Bay to prevent Haitian refugees and HIV infected peoples from claiming asylum in the United States.[22]

Crime and security

Social issues

Barr has stated that he believed the constitution was not originally intended to create a right to abortion; that Roe v. Wade was thus wrongly decided; and that abortion should be a "legitimate issue for state legislators".[10]

Health care reform

Cannabis Legalization

Energy and environment

Executive power

The attorney general is the head executive of the Department of Justice. All executive decisions pertaining to the Department of Justice must go through the attorney general.

2016 Election and Trump administration

Barr believed that then Republican candidate Donald J. Trump's calls for investigating Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for President, were not inappropriate. He told The New York Times that "there is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation. Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a president wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation." In the same Times piece, Barr added that an investigation into the Uranium One controversy was more important than looking into whether Trump conspired with Russia: “To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility.” [23] Elsewhere, Barr has commented that “I don’t think all this stuff about throwing [Hillary Clinton] in jail or jumping to the conclusion that she should be prosecuted is appropriate.But I do think that there are things that should be investigated that haven’t been investigated.”[24]

Personal life

Barr is an avid bagpiper, an avocation he began at age 8, and has played competitively in Scotland with a major American pipe band; he was a member for some time of the City of Washington Pipe Band.[25]

Barr is a Roman Catholic. He is a resident of Virginia.[citation needed]


  1. "Trump Says He Has Chosen William Barr to Be Next Attorney General". Wall Street Journal. December 7, 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/10/nyregion/donald-barr-82-headmaster-and-science-honors-educator.html
  3. Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Former Attorney General and Verizon General Counsel Joins Kirkland & Ellis LLP (press release). January 7, 2009.
  4. 1992 Current Biography Yearbook, pp. 51–52
  5. LaFraniere, Sharon, "For Nominee Barr, an Unusual Path to Attorney General's Office", The Washington Post, November 12, 1991, p. A6.
  6. Johnston, David, "Political Lifeguard at the Department of Justice", The New York Times, August 30, 1990, page B8.
    Maureen Santini, "New Yorker Tapped", Daily News, October 17, 1991, page C12
    Douglas Jehl, "Acting Justice Dept. Chief Named Attorney General", Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1991, p. 1
  7. Johnston, David, "Attorney General Stepping Down", The New York Times, August 10, 1991.
  8. Ronald Mothers, "U.S. Agents Storm Prison in Alabama, Freeing 9 Hostages", The New York Times, August 31, 1991, page 1; Klaidman, Daniel, "Barr's Star Rises After Hostage Rescue", Legal Times, September 9, 1991, page 6.
  9. Barrett, Paul, "Bush Picks Barr for Attorney General Post", The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 1991, p. A25.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Ostrow, Ronald J. (November 14, 1991). "Barr Opposed to Roe vs. Wade Decision: Justice Dept.: The attorney general-designate tells Senate panel right to privacy does not extend to obtaining an abortion". Los Angeles Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 Ostrow, Ronald J. (1991). "Judiciary Panel Approves Barr for Attorney General". Los Angeles Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 Johnston, David, "New Attorney General Shifts Department's Focus", The New York Times, March 3, 1992, page A17; LaFraniere, Sharon, "Barr Takes Center Stage at Justice Department With New Script", The Washington Post, March 5, 1992, A19.
  13. Ostrow, Ron, "Barr: Conservative With 'Political Savvy' Is on Fast Track", Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1991, p. A20
    Barrett, Paul, "At Justice Department, New No. 2 Man Brings Humor, Humility to Difficult Job", The Wall Street Journal, June 11, 1990.
  14. Landler, Mark, "The Lawyer Leading the Charge Against the FCC's Regulations", The New York Times, 1/20/97, page D1
    Barrett, Paul, "GTE Lawyer Shapes Strategy for Telecommunications", The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 1996.
  15. Green, Frank, "Parole, Sentencing Reform Plan Clears First Hurdle", Richmond Times Dispatch, August 1994, pages A1, A10.
  16. "Board of Visitors". Special Collections Research Center Wiki. College of William & Mary. August 3, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "William P. Barr | Lawyers | Kirkland & Ellis LLP". www.kirkland.com. Retrieved 2018-12-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Axelrod, Tal (December 6, 2018). "Former Attorney General William Barr is Trump's leading contender for AG: report". The Hill. Retrieved December 6, 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Barrett, Devlin; Zapotosky, Matt; Dawsey, Josh (December 6, 2018). "William Barr is leading attorney general candidate in Trump discussions". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 6, 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Trump announces he'll nominate William Barr as next attorney general". ABC News. December 7, 2018. Retrieved December 7, 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  22. "William P. Barr Oral History, Assistant Attorney General; Deputy Attorney General; Attorney General". Miller Center. 2016-10-27. Retrieved 2018-12-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/us/politics/trump-pressure-clinton-investigation.html
  24. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/06/trumps-new-top-attorney-general-pick-once-called-more-clinton-probes-downplayed-trump-russia-collusion/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5fb991432da3
  25. Ostrow, Ron, "Barr: Conservative With 'Political Savvy' Is on Fast Track", Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1991, page A18.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Donald B. Ayer
U.S. Deputy Attorney General
Served under: George H.W. Bush

Succeeded by
George J. Terwilliger III
Preceded by
Dick Thornburgh
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: George H.W. Bush

Succeeded by
Janet Reno