Who Is William Barr? He Decides What the Public Can See in Mueller’s Report

After weeks of combing through the special counsel report on the investigation into Russia’s election interference, including whether any Trump associates coordinated with the Russians and whether President Trump tried to obstruct justice, Attorney General William P. Barr is poised to release a redacted version of the nearly 400-page document on Thursday.

Here are five things to know about the man in control of what the public can see in one of the most anticipated government documents in history.

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 68, is married to a retired librarian, and together they have three daughters — all attorneys. One of his daughters and her husband work at the Justice Department.

In March, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, delivered a report on the investigation, which Mr. Barr distilled into four pages, citing a finding of no criminal conspiracy with Russia. Mr. Barr also relayed that Mr. Mueller did not clear the president of obstruction of justice, but he and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein did.

The Constitution, according to Mr. Barr’s interpretation, does not consider it a crime for the president to wield his executive powers corruptly, for instance by firing a subordinate or by pardoning a loyal aide. It is an interpretation favorable to Mr. Trump.

“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.

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.”

Democrats have questioned whether Mr. Barr is a partisan who is protecting the president.

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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.

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, Jeff 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.

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