In 2007, the Justice Department was in disarray. Though it was largely exaggerated, a controversy over the firing of some United States attorneys, the intrusion of politics into Justice Department hiring decisions, and White House contacts with Main Justice forced the resignation of an overmatched attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.
The Justice Department is not just any arm of government. It is a bulwark of the rule of law on which our domestic tranquility and prosperity depend. It is a watchman against terrorists and hostile foreign powers, ensuring our domestic security. When it is reeling, the nation is reeling. In 2007, it was reeling.
Then, in a masterstroke, President Bush named Michael B. Mukasey as the new attorney general. A distinguished former Justice Department prosecutor, Judge Mukasey had been as accomplished and exemplary a jurist as the nation could produce. His nomination was exactly the shot in the arm the Justice Department needed. Order was restored, thanks to the respect he’d earned from all quarters, including both sides of the congressional aisle, for his legal acumen and scrupulousness.
In a time of similar tumult, President Trump has hit a similar home run, nominating William P. Barr to be the next attorney general. Bill Barr will restore order.
Barr brings much-needed experience and instant credibility to the task. After all, he has already been the nation’s chief federal law-enforcement officer, serving as attorney general in the last years of President George H. W. Bush’s term. He is a lawyer’s lawyer, having led the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel before being elevated by Bush 41 to deputy AG and, ultimately, the top job. He has rightly been adamant that, while an attorney general is a consequential administration official, the AG’s first allegiance is to the Constitution and the laws.