- Yuri Gripas/Reuters
- The son-in-law of William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is moving from the Justice Department, taking up a role in the White House counsel’s office, CNN reports.
- The former director of the Office of Government Ethics said that the move was a “good idea” but that Barr’s son-in-law joining the White House legal team was “concerning” as it raised “further questions about Barr’s independence.”
- Democrats have questioned whether Barr should be confirmed as attorney general, as he once wrote an unsolicited memo expressing doubts about the Russia investigation.
- The White House counsel does not directly represent Trump in the Russia investigation, though its work does intersect with it.
- Barr’s daughter is also leaving the Justice Department and will take a role with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
The son-in-law of President Donald Trump’s attorney-general nominee, William Barr, is leaving a job in the Justice Department to join the president’s White House legal team, two officials told CNN.
Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, is taking up a role in the White House counsel’s office, the officials said. The White House counsel is appointed by the president to advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency.
The White House counsel is distinct from the legal team that defends Trump in the Russia investigation, but its work does intersect with the investigation – The New York Times reported in August that the White House counsel at the time, Don McGahn, had cooperated extensively with the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and Trump is also believed to have blamed McGahn for the ongoing investigation.
The Russia investigation will be overseen by Barr if he is confirmed as attorney general later this week. Democrats have raised concerns about Barr, as prior to his nomination he wrote an unsolicited memo to the Department of Justice expressing doubts about the investigation.
Just three Democrats voted to advance his nomination earlier this week, but he is likely to be confirmed by the Senate later Thursday.
Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that McGaughey’s move to the White House counsel’s office was “concerning.”
“That’s troubling because it raises further questions about Barr’s independence,” Shaub told CNN.
- Alex Wong/Getty Images
But he also said that McGaughey’s move – as well as the move of Barr’s eldest daughter, Mary Daly, from Justice Department to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, as reported by CNN – was “a good idea.”
He said the moves would “avoid the bad optics that could come from the appearance of them working for” Barr.
The moves were made by choice and were not required by federal nepotism laws, CNN reported.
Shaub further outlined his position in a tweet on Wednesday night.
“Trump fired an AG for allowing an investigation of him.” he wrote. “His nominee, Barr, says he’ll ignore ethics officials if he feels like it.”
Trump fired an AG for allowing an investigation of him
His nominee, Barr, says he’ll ignore ethics officials if he feels like it
Barr wrote an unsolicited memo criticizing the Mueller investigation
Now Barr’s son-in-law is being reassigned to the White House Counsel’s office
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 14, 2019
“Barr wrote an unsolicited memo criticizing the Mueller investigation. Now Barr’s son-in-law is being reassigned to the White House Counsel’s office.”
Barr said in January that if Trump asked him to end Mueller’s inquiry without cause, he would not carry out that order. He also committed to giving Mueller the resources, funding, and time needed to complete the investigation.
But when asked whether he would recuse himself in light of the memo he wrote criticizing the investigation last year, Barr said he would seek the counsel of Justice Department ethics officials but did not commit to following their advice.