But it was immediately clear that many people would not regard an inquiry overseen by Barr as credible. His handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the president and Russian election interference left many people, including most congressional Democrats, convinced he see his role not as defending rule of law, or the executive branch broadly, but President Donald Trump’s personal interests.

“AG lied to us about the Mueller report in order to protect his boss, Trump. He was in charge of Epstein’s care. And we’re just supposed to trust him on this as news breaks that Mar-a-Lago was a site for trafficking,” wrote Neera Tanden, head of the liberal Center for American Progress, on Twitter.

“We have to ask who stood to gain from his permanent silence,” said Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe. “Who could he have incriminated in an effort to win favorable treatment from the Trump Justice Department?” He demanded that Barr recuse himself from “overseeing an inquiry that cuts this close to the bone.”