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Trump picks former US attorney-general Barr to head Justice Department

President Donald Trump has chosen former US attorney-general William Barr to once again lead the Justice Department, a role that would put him in charge of the federal probe into Russian election interference.

Key points:

  • Mr Barr previously served as attorney-general under the late president George HW Bush
  • If appointed, Mr Barr would have ultimate responsibility for the Russia probe
  • Mr Trump said Mr Barr was "my first choice from day one"

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr Barr would take over from Matthew Whitaker, who has been serving in an acting capacity since Mr Trump forced out Jeffrey Sessions a month ago. Mr Whitaker had been Mr Sessions's chief of staff.

Mr Barr was "my first choice from day one" and "a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man", Mr Trump told reporters outside the White House.

Mr Barr, a lawyer who was previously attorney-general from 1991 to 1993 under the late president George HW Bush, has defended Mr Trump's controversial decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 when Mr Comey was leading the Russia probe.

After Mr Comey's firing, Special Counsel Robert Mueller took over that investigation, which includes any possible collusion between Moscow and Mr Trump's 2016 election campaign, and any potential obstruction of justice.

The Russia probe has long infuriated Mr Trump, who calls it a witch hunt and who has denied any collusion or any obstruction of justice.

Mr Barr has said there is more reason to investigate potential wrongdoing by Mr Trump's campaign opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, than there is to probe any potential collusion.

Mr Mueller, a Republican, was appointed by Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein.

Mr Barr has said political donations show Mr Mueller's team of professional prosecutors tilt uncomfortably to the left. On Twitter, Mr Trump calls them "17 Angry Democrats".

External Link: …..overturned, 9-0, in the United States Supreme Court. Doing same thing to people now. Will all of the substantial & many contributions made by the 17 Angry Democrats to the Campaign of Crooked Hillary be listed in top of Report. Will the people that worked for the Clinton….

As attorney-general, Mr Barr would have ultimate responsibility for the Russia probe, unless he recuses himself. Mr Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation.

US intelligence agencies have concluded Moscow worked to influence the election and tip it in Mr Trump's favour. Russia has denied any interference.

Mr Barr's comments on Mr Mueller and Ms Clinton could stir opposition from Senate Democrats, but the nomination will almost certainly not come up for a vote until next year. Republicans will control the Senate with a 53-47 majority in the new Congress convening in January.

"I do think he's worthy of consideration. I am concerned he has said some negative things about the Special Counsel's office and some of the prosecutors he had in place," Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar told MSNBC on Thursday after Mr Barr's name surfaced.

Ms Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the nomination.

Reuters/AP

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