William Barr has started discussions on how to handle two significant decisions awaiting him as attorney general: what to report to Congress about the special counsel’s Russia investigation findings and who will be his deputy attorney general, according to people briefed on the discussions.
Barr, expected to win Senate confirmation later this week, has been consulting with top Justice Department officials on outlines of plans to handle an anticipated investigative report from special counsel Robert Mueller on the Russia investigation in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with the discussions. The most pressing question Barr will face is how much information should be included in a report to Congress based on the findings from Mueller.
Officials said Barr has not seen any part of Mueller’s report and hasn’t yet been briefed on the investigation, which – according to acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker – is nearing completion. Barr wants time to get up to speed and no firm plans on what goes to Congress have been made, the officials said.
Barr has also begun discussions on a successor to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has overseen the Mueller probe for most of its existence. Whitaker’s predecessor as attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself and Rosenstein appointed Mueller to conduct an independent investigation.
Jeffrey Rosen, the deputy transportation secretary who was confirmed by the Senate in 2017, has emerged as the top contender for the job, multiple sources familiar with the discussions tell CNN. Rosen previously served as general counsel at the Transportation Department and in the Office of Management and Budget in the administration of President George W. Bush.
The deputy attorney general job is responsible for day-to-day management of the department, with all components from the FBI to US attorneys reporting directly to that post. Rosen is an experienced lawyer who served on the management committee of Kirkland and Ellis, one of the nation’s biggest law firms. But he hasn’t worked previously in the Justice Department, which makes him an unusual pick to run the sprawling legal bureaucracy.
The Justice Department declined to comment on any of Barr’s potential plans. Rosen didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Battle on the horizon
As clues mount that Mueller is ending his nearly two-year investigation in the coming weeks, brewing legal and political fights are already gathering steam, with Barr squarely in the eye of the storm.
If confirmed, Barr will inherit the Russia investigation and, perhaps most importantly at this stage, ultimately decide what happens to Mueller’s report.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Barr promised he was in “favor of as much transparency as there as can be, consistent with the rules and the law.” Yet he stopped short of making any pledge to turn over the full report to lawmakers, and indicated he would need to consult with Mueller and Rosenstein.