Bagpipes sound like a sack of cats being systematically tortured, and those who play ought to be charged with public nuisance offences and musical crimes against humanity. And William Barr will do well to avoid the grilling of United States senators when he seeks their approval for his nomination as President Donald Trump’s new attorney general.
Barr is a man who has played in a bagpipe band at the world championship level, and if there’s a bright side to having a highly successful legal career, it’s that he doesn’t have the time anymore to torture anyone with his chanters and bag of wind.
Huffing and puffing on the work as the US attorney general is one thing, blowing and squeezing out a tune on the pipes another — and the music is playing second fiddle, as it were.
However, Barr is being grilled in great depth about his thoughts on the work of Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating allegations of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice claims against Trump, who has nominated him to head up the Justice Department in place of Jeff Sessions, who stood aside after months of criticism over his recusal in the investigation.
The president’s critics — and there are many — have been anxious that Trump will replace Sessions with someone pliable.
As of now, it seems that Barr may secure his nomination even if he is being grilled on his thoughts on the finite and finer points of the limits of executive powers.
The 68-year-old Barr earned his undergraduate degree in government from Columbia University in 1971, and followed that up two years later with a Master’s in government and China from Columbia. According to his biography posted at his current law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, he followed that up with four years working with the Central Intelligence Agency.
The law degree came in 1977 from George Washington University and he clerked for US Court of Appeals Judge Malcolm Wiley. Then came a stint at the White House, working on the domestic policy of the then president Ronald Reagan between 1982 and 1983 — before a six-year stint in the law firm of Shaw, Pitman, Potts & Trowbridge — a name that would likely cost you $100 (Dh368) in legal fees just to type it once.
Barr left to become assistant AG in the office of George Bush senior, and was unanimously named AG in 1991. Getting the job once, however, doesn’t circumvent the need for a second current Senate approval process. Back then, he was key to the prosecution of Manuel Noriega, who was convicted of racketeering in 1992, the 1988 bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, and the collapse of the US Savings and Loan banks.
Perhaps the most controversial element of his tenure involved another Special Counsel’s investigation into the Iran-Contra deal, where profits from illegal arms sales to Iran were funnelled to aid anti-Communist rebel activities in Nicaragua. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post wrote that Barr had an itchy finger when it came to his desire to fire Walsh, and almost acted on it when Reagan’s defence secretary, Caspar Weinberger, was indicted for his role in the secretive Cold War scheme.
Bush, who had been the director general of the CIA and was not on the side of impartiality, pardoned five in the Iran-Contra affair, with Barr being a vocal supporter of putting the records of the quintet out right.
Major corporate mergers
After leaving the White Hose, Barr returned to the corporate world, becoming a lawyer for GTE Corporation, which joined with Bell Atlantic to become telecommunications giant Verizon in 2000. He stayed there for eight years doing work on deregulation and major corporate mergers, and argued two cases on the issue before the Supreme Court. He joined Kirkland & Ellis in 2008, working not as a partner but rather as “of counsel” — doing piece work.
Democrats in the Senate will be taking a close look at his writings, and that includes a piece written for the New York Times where he argued that Trump made the right decision in giving the boot to former FBI director James Comey, and he also wrote for the same newspaper, arguing that former secretary of state and defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should have faced stiffer investigation over her role in a 2010 Uranium One scandal.
On a personal note, he has been married to Christine Moynihan since 1973. The couple have three daughters, all lawyers, with daughter Mary Daly working in the Justice Department as head of opioid enforcement, implementing President Trump’s legal efforts to stem the crisis.