In his first month in office, Attorney General William Barr has sent a reassuring message to the beleaguered Justice Department: he wants a return to basics after years of disruptive firings, tweet storms and scandals, the Los Angeles Times reports. In briefings, Barr has asked detailed questions about cases, suspects and legal arguments. He has wandered his fifth-floor hallway to converse about the law. He declined the traditional “clap in” where a newly confirmed attorney general walks through the building and subordinates applaud. Instead, he held a three-hour coffee reception in his conference room. Advisors said the approach reflects Barr’s low-key persona, and his top goals of steering the Justice Department out of the line of political fire, boosting public confidence in it, and improving the morale of its 110,000 employees.
“Everything the attorney general is doing right now is about restoring the [department’s] reputation as a nonpartisan institution whose only allegiance is the law and to the rule of law, not politics,” said J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge and close friend. Barr could soon face his toughest test. Special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to finish his final report in coming weeks, and Barr must decide how much to release to the public. The pressure on Barr intensified Thursday when the House voted 420-0 to demand he release to Congress and the public the full findings of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to sway the 2016 election and whether President Trump’s campaign or associates aided the Russians. The resolution is nonbinding, but Republicans overwhelmingly joined Democrats to make their views known. Barr will have to weigh those demands against the privacy rights of those not charged with crimes and federal rules governing the release of classified and other sensitive information.