US President Donald Trump speaks before a meeting between US and Chinese officials in the Oval Office of the White House January 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski - AFP)
Agence France-Presse

William Barr, U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the new attorney-general, was approved on Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee and his confirmation process now moves to the full Senate.

Barr is virtually assured of approval in the Senate, where Trump’s Republican Party holds a majority.

The previous Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions, was fired by Trump in November.

Barr’s nomination is being closely watched – and came under scrutiny at the committee level – in part because the Justice Department oversees the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into the 2016 Russian election interference.

The nominee was attorney-general once before, under president George HW Bush.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted no on Barr, in part citing concerns over the Mueller probe.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear if acting Attorney-General, Matt Whitaker, will appear before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, where he is expected to face questions on the Mueller probe, among other topics.

The House is controlled by the Democrats.

Whitaker took umbrage with a subpoena power taken by the committee chairman Jerry Nadler, which could force the top judicial official to answer questions he deems to fall under executive privilege.

Nadler said he might need the “threat” of the subpoena to get answers during the Friday session.

It remains unclear if the Democrats will drop the subpoena, which came after Whitaker agreed to appear voluntarily and was issued less than 24 hours he was due to appear before the committee.

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