In an address to a gathering of hundreds of law enforcement officials and prosecutors in Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday, President Trump predicted his pick for attorney general, William Barr, will face a smooth road to confirmation and receive "overwhelming bipartisan support."
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"He demonstrated an unwavering adherence to the rule of law, which the people in this room like to hear," Trump told attendees of the National Safe Neighborhoods Project conference, speaking of Barr's previous tenure as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration. "There's no one more capable or more qualified for this role. He deserves overwhelming bipartisan support and I suspect he'll probably get it."
The president's remarks follow his announcement earlier Friday morning at the White House that he was tapping Barr to return to his position overseeing the Justice Department.
Barr's nomination comes amid controversy over Trump's appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general following the departure of Jeff Sessions. Trump had repeatedly expressed exasperation over his failure to reign in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Speaking to the conference as President Trump landed in Kansas City on board Air Force One, former attorney general John Ashcroft praised the choice of Barr but also lauded Sessions for reviving the Project Safe Neighborhoods program during his time as attorney general. The PSF program was first created under former President George W. Bush in 2001 at the start of Ashcroft's tenure.
Whitaker addressed the conference Thursday, but in line with his public comments since taking his position, he made no reference to criticisms leveled by Democratic lawmakers who have argued his appointment was illegal. He accompanied Trump on Air Force One Friday and delivered introductory remarks for the president at the conference, also praising Trump's selection of Barr.
"He's supremely qualified, highly respected and will continue to support the men and women in blue," Whitaker said. "I commend the president for this excellent choice."
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, at the meeting a day before, joked to the room that they should "let the president know that his favorite deputy attorney general was here," seeming to allude to the very public criticisms Trump has directed his way in recent weeks.
The president as recently as Friday morning tweeted an attack on Rosenstein, asking whether he was "totally conflicted" in originally overseeing the Mueller probe considering his role in drafting a memo that was used by the White House to justify Trump's firing of former FBI director James Comey.
....Foundation be listed at the top of the Report? Will the scathing document written about Lyin’ James Comey, by the man in charge of the case, Rod Rosenstein (who also signed the FISA Warrant), be a big part of the Report? Isn’t Rod therefore totally conflicted? Will all of....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018