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William Barr believed Roe was wrongly decided

December 7, 2018 GMT

William Barr, the man President Trump plans to nominate as his the new attorney general, believed the 1973 Roe decision establishing a national right to abortion was wrongly decided and should be overturned, he told senators in a 1991 hearing.

“I believe Roe v. Wade should be overruled,” Mr. Barr said during his 1991 confirmation hearing to be attorney general, though he added, “I do not think that opinion was the right opinion. It is the law of the land, and until it is overruled, it remains the law of the land.”

Mr. Barr’s comments to the Senate Judiciary Committee won praise even from then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden, who said that while he disagreed with the nominee’s stance, it was stunning and refreshing to have a nominee so forthright.


Mr. Barr would go on to win unanimous support in the committee and be confirmed by a voice vote in the full Senate, serving at the helm of the Justice Department through the end of President George H.W. Bush’s term.

Mr. Trump on Friday announced that he will nominate Mr. Barr to be attorney general once again.

His outspoken stance on abortion is likely to draw more opposition this time around, as are more recent comments concerning the extent and direction of Justice Department investigations into the administration.

Yet Mr. Barr’s description in 1991 of how he views the role of attorney general could quell some fears.

He said at the time that the Justice Department’s chief is the legal counselor to the president and Cabinet, but also has an independent duty to the law itself.

“That is the area where the attorney general’s allegiance has to be to the law above all,” Mr. Barr told senators. “And that is not to say that the first role doesn’t require allegiance to the law, but it is in the second role where the tension is sometimes said to exist between politics and doing justice.”

“That is the area where the attorney general must keep the administration of justice away from and above politics,” he said.