Feb 14, 2019

Senate confirms William Barr as attorney general

Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Senate voted 54-45 on Thursday to confirm President Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr.

Why it matters: Barr will oversee special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. In a memo he drafted before he was nominated, Barr argued that "Mueller's theory" that the president may have obstructed justice by firing FBI Director Jim Comey is "fatally misconceived," prompting concerns from Democratic lawmakers about potential conflicts of interest.

Details: The Democrats who voted for Barr's confirmation were Sens. Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.). The Republican who voted against Barr's confirmation was Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.).

  • Barr sought to reassure lawmakers in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, saying he would work to provide "as much transparency as possible" into Mueller's conclusions, and that it would be "a breach of his constitutional duties" if Trump tried to intervene to protect himself.
  • However, Barr also stated that he would not recuse himself from overseeing the probe if he disagreed with ethics officials' recommendations that he do so.

Go deeper: Barr says that Mueller probe is not a "witch hunt" in Senate testimony

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Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,359 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health

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Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.