William Barr Biography
William Barr (William Pelham Barr) is a two-time United States Attorney General. Barr was appointed by President Donald Trump as the 85th Attorney General, and has served in that role since February 14, 2019.
Previously, Barr served in the position from 1991 to 1993, in the administration of George H. W. Bush. Before becoming Attorney General the first time, he held numerous other posts within the Department of Justice, including serving as Deputy Attorney General from 1990 to 1991.
He is a longtime proponent of the unitary executive theory of unfettered presidential authority. He is a member of the Republican Party.
William Barr Age
He was born on May 23, 1950 in New York City, New York, United States. He is 72 years old as of 2022.
William Barr Height
Barr stands at a height of 5 feet 9 inches tall.
William Barr Family
Barr is the second of four sons born to Donald Barr and Mary Margaret (Ahern) a Columbia University faculty members. His father taught English literature at Columbia University before becoming headmaster of the Dalton School in Manhattan and later the Hackley School in Tarrytown, both members of the Ivy Preparatory School League. His father was born Jewish but later converted to Catholicism. His mother is of Irish ancestry.
William Barr Wife
Barr is married to Christine Moynihan Barr since 1973. His wife holds a masters degree in library science, and together they have three daughters.
William Barr Daughter
Barr is the father of three daughters: Mary Barr Daly, Patricia Barr Straughn, and Margaret (Meg) Barr. His eldest daughter, Mary, born 1977/1978, was a senior Justice Department official who oversaw the department’s anti-opioid and addiction efforts.
His second daughter, Patricia, born 1981/1982, was counsel for the House Agriculture Committee; and third born daughter, Meg, born 1984/1985, is a former Washington prosecutor and cancer survivor (of recurrent Hodgkin’s lymphoma), was counsel for Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana.
Mary left her post at the Department of Justice as the Trump Administration’s point woman on the opioid crisis in February 2019, as their father awaited Senate confirmation for his appointment as Attorney General. Her husband, however, continued to work in the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
At around the same time that Mary left the Department of Justice, Tyler McGaughey, the husband of her youngest sister Meg, left the U.S. Attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, to join the White House Counsel’s office.
William Barr Net Worth
Barr has an estimated net worth of about $50 million which he earned from his career as a United States Attorney General.
William Barr Education
He attended the Corpus Christi School and Horace Mann School. Barr 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 Juris Doctor degree with highest honors in 1977 from the George Washington University Law School.
William Barr Career
From 1973 to 1977, William Barr was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. He 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.
From May 3, 1982, to September 5, 1983, he served on the domestic policy staff at the Reagan White House with his official title being Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy. Barr was also in private practice for nine years with the Washington law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.
U.S. Department of Justice
In 1989, at the beginning of his administration, President George H. W. Bush appointed William to the U.S. Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), 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. He was also known for the arrest of Manuel Noriega, and a controversial opinion that the FBI 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.
He declined a congressional request for the full opinion, but instead provided a document that “summarizes the principal conclusions.” Congress subpoenaed the opinion, and its public release after his departure from the Justice Department showed he had omitted significant findings in the opinion from his summary document.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General (1990–1991)
In May 1990, he was appointed Deputy Attorney General, the official responsible for day-to-day management of the Department. According to media reports, he was generally praised for his professional management of the Department. During August 1991, when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh resigned to campaign for the Senate, William Barr was named Acting Attorney General.
Three days after he accepted that position, 121 Cuban inmates, awaiting deportation to Cuba, seized 9 hostages at the Talladega federal prison. Barr directed the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team to assault the prison, which resulted in rescuing all hostages without loss of life.
William Barr U.S. Attorney General (2019–present)
Second nomination and confirmation
On December 7, 2018, Donald Trump announced his nomination of Barr for Attorney General to succeed Jeff Sessions. Daniel Klaidman and Michael Isikoff reported that Trump had sought Barr as chief defense lawyer for Trump regarding the special counsel investigation headed by Robert Mueller after Barr made three positions known.
First, William Barr supported Trump’s firing of Comey on May 9, 2017. Second, Barr questioned the appointments of some of Mueller’s prosecutors due to political donations they had made to the Clinton campaign. Third, he alleged there were conflicts of interest of two appointees to the Special Counsel Team, Bruce Ohr and Jennie Rhee.
On February 7, 2019, The Senate Judiciary Committee held a vote on Barr. The nomination was reported to the Senate on a 12–10, party-line vote.
On February 14, 2019, Barr was confirmed as Attorney General by a 54–45 near party-line vote, with Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as the three Democrats to vote Yea. Republicans Richard Burr (R-NC) and Rand Paul (R-KY) voted No did not vote.
Later that day, William Barr was sworn-in as the nation’s 85th Attorney General by Chief Justice John Roberts in a ceremony at the White House. Barr is the first person to be appointed to a second non-consecutive term as Attorney General since John J. Crittenden in 1850.
Under Barr’s leadership, the Justice Department changed its position on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Before that, the department took the position that the individual mandate provision was unconstitutional, but could be severed from the whole healthcare law.
On March 25, the department updated its position to argue that the entire law is unconstitutional. On May 2, it conducted a filing with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to nullify the entire law, arguing that the removal of the provision on individual mandate results in the entire law becoming unconstitutional.
As of that day, President Donald Trump has promised to produce a replacement health insurance plan only after he wins reelection in 2020. If the ACA is nullified, over 20 million Americans risk losing their health insurance.
On May 1, 2019, at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr was asked by Senator Kamala Harris: “Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?”
He hesitated, asked her to repeat the question, and finally indicated he was unsure of what ‘suggested’ meant, saying “there have been discussions of matters out there, they have not asked me to open an investigation … I wouldn’t say suggest.” When Harris asked, “Hinted? Inferred?” Barr replied: “I don’t know.”
Also on May 1, 2019, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told the House Oversight Committee that William Barr instructed Justice Department official John Gore to refuse a subpoena to testify in front of the committee because it is a Justice Department requirement to ensure “the confidentiality interests of the Executive Branch.”
William Barr Mueller investigation and report
On January 14, 2019, a day before William Barr’s confirmation hearing for Attorney General, Barr sent written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the eventual final Mueller report, saying “it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel’s work … For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.”
On March 22, 2019, Mueller concluded his special counsel investigation and gave the final report to Barr. On March 24, Barr wrote a four-page letter to Congress describing what he said were the report’s principal conclusions: first, that the Special Counsel did not establish conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election; and second, that the Special Counsel made no decision as to whether to prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice, quoting “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein themselves concluded that the evidence did not establish obstruction of justice beyond reasonable doubt, and made the decision not to press the charge; “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
On March 27, Mueller sent Barr a letter describing his concerns of Barr’s letter to Congress and the public on March 24. In it, Mueller complained that the summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Special Counsel’s probe, adding, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations”.
Both before and after the release of Barr’s summary, Robert Mueller repeatedly tried to get Barr to release the report’s introductions and executive summaries. Mueller’s letter prompted Barr to call Mueller to discuss about his letter.
Barr clarified on the intention of his letter in both his phone call with Mueller and in another letter to Congress that his letter was not intended to be a summary of the report, but rather serve as a description of the principal findings of the report.
On April 10, 2019, in one of his testimonies before the House Judiciary Committee, William Barr said “I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.”
In the morning of April 18, 2019, the Department of Justice released a redacted version of the special counsel’s report. After the release of the full report, fact-checkers and news outlets characterized Barr’s initial letter as a deliberate mischaracterization of the Mueller Report and its conclusions.
The New York Times reported instances in which the William Barr letter omitted information and quoted sentence fragments out of context in ways that significantly altered the Mueller findings, including:
- A sentence fragment described only one possible motive for Trump to obstruct justice, while the Mueller report listed other possible motives
- Omission of words and a full sentence that twice suggested there was knowing and complicit behavior between the Trump campaign and Russians that stopped short of coordination
- Omission of language that indicated Trump could be subject to indictment after leaving office, to suggest that Trump was cleared in full
According to the Associated Press, Barr misrepresented the Mueller report in several ways, saying the report gave no indication that Congress could make a determination on obstruction of justice (the report specifically stated “that Congress may apply obstruction laws”) and that “these reports are not supposed to be made public” (when DOJ regulations give the AG wide authority in releasing reports such as this one).
Barr falsely claimed in his summary of the report that “the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation.” The Washington Post fact-checker described Barr’s claim as “astonishing” and PolitiFact said it was “false.”
In actuality, Donald Trump declined to grant the Special Counsel an in-person interview, and the Special Counsel report characterized Trump’s written responses to interview questions as “inadequate”.
The report also documented numerous instances where Donald Trump tried to either impede or end the Special Counsel investigation, analyzing each in terms of the three factors necessary for a criminal charge of obstruction.
During a press conference, William Barr said Mueller’s report contained “substantial evidence” that Trump was “frustrated and angered” because of his belief that the “investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks”; however, the report gave no indication that Trump’s frustrations with the investigation would mitigate obstructing behavior.
Barr also said it would not be criminal obstruction of justice for a president to instruct a staffer to lie to investigators about the president’s actions, and suggested a president could legally terminate an investigation into himself if he was being “falsely accused”.
On May 8, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to hold William Barr in contempt of congress for failing to comply with a subpoena which requested the full and unredacted Mueller Report. The matter now falls to the House of Representatives at-large for a contempt of congress vote.
The Justice Department took the position that disclosure of the unredacted Mueller Report would require the department to violate “the law, court rules and court orders” as well as grand jury secrecy rules.
William Barr Robert Mueller
Barr and Robert Mueller have known each other since the 1980s and are said to be good friends. Mueller attended the weddings of two of Barr’s daughters, and their wives attend Bible study together.
William Barr Personal life
William Barr is an avid bagpiper. He began playing at the age of eight and has performed competitively in Scotland with a major American pipe band. At one time, he was a member of the City of Washington Pipe Band.
William Barr HIV
As Deputy Attorney General, Barr – together with others at the Department of Justice – successfully led the effort for the withdrawal of a proposed Department of Health and Human Services rule that would have allowed people with HIV/AIDS into the United States.
Barr also advocated the use of Guantanamo Bay to prevent Haitian refugees and HIV infected individuals from claiming asylum in the United States. According to Vox in December 2018, he supported an aggressive “law and order” agenda on immigration as Attorney General in the Bush Administration.
William Barr Death penalty
William Barr supports the death penalty, arguing that it reduces crime. Barr advocated a Bush-backed bill that would have expanded the types of crime that could be punished by execution.
In a 1991 op-ed in The New York Times, Barr argued that death row inmates’ ability to challenge their sentences should be limited to avoid cases dragging on for years: “This lack of finality devastates the criminal justice system. It diminishes the deterrent effect of state criminal laws, saps state prosecutorial resources and continually reopens the wounds of victims and survivors.”
William Barr Drugs
Barr personally prefers a federal ban on marijuana. However, due to thinking that a general consensus on a federal ban is not possible, he prefers the STATES Act on marijuana legalization. “I think it’s a mistake to back off on marijuana… However, if we want a federal approach, if we want states to have their own laws, then let’s get there and let’s get there the right way.” He also stated that DOJ policy should align with congressional legislation.
Currently, the STATES Act is being analyzed by the Department of Justice for “comment”: “Once we get those comments, we’ll be able to work with you on any concerns about the STATES law, but I would much rather that approach – the approach taken by the STATES Act – than where we currently are.”
William Barr 2016 election
William Barr donated $55,000 to a political action committee that backed Jeb Bush during the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries and $2,700 to Donald Trump during the general election campaign.
William Barr Executive powers
Barr is proponent of the unitary executive theory, which holds that the President has broad executive powers. Before joining the Trump administration, Barr argued that the president has “complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding.”
William Barr Book
Barr is the author of a book called One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General Originally published on March 8, 2022.