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AG Barr has acted like Trump’s personal lawyer and is ‘unfit to serve as attorney general’: legal expert

AG Barr has acted like Trump’s personal lawyer and is ‘unfit to serve as attorney general’: legal expert
Bill Barr Screengrab via MSNBC.

When William Barr was sworn in as U.S. attorney general in February 2019, his supporters hoped he would conduct himself like a traditional conservative rather than a Trumpian — noting that he had previously held the same position under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s. But Barr has turned out to be a full-fledged Trump loyalist, and Fred Wertheimer (founder of the activist group Democracy 21) takes a close look at his Trumpian record in an in-depth article for Just Security.

After firing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018, Wertheimer recalls, Trump went on to nominate Barr as a permanent replacement — and he was looking for someone who would act like his “personal defense attorney” rather than “the nation’s chief law enforcement official.” Trump, Wertheimer laments, got exactly what he was looking for.

A troubling sign, according to Wertheimer, came on June 8, 2018 — when Barr “sent an unsolicited 19-page memo to the White House and Justice Department.” That memo was highly critical of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, describing it as “fatally misconceived.”

“In retrospect,” Wertheimer writes, “the memo appears to have been, among other things, Barr’s job application for the position of attorney general. He got the job.”

It didn’t take long before Barr, as attorney general, showed himself to be a Trump loyalist. After Mueller completed his investigation, Wertheimer explains, Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress on March 24, 2019 that “mischaracterized” Mueller’s findings.

“Mueller himself sent a letter to Barr on March 27 protesting Barr’s characterization of the report and urging him to release the summaries contained in the report itself,” Wertheimer recalls. “Mueller said that releasing the summaries at that time ‘would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation.’ Barr refused to release the summaries.”

Wertheimer adds, “Barr’s knowing mischaracterization of the Mueller Report served to validate Trump’s false claim that the report exonerated him in finding ‘no collusion.’”

In 2018, Michael Horowitz (inspector general for the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ) launched an investigation of an investigation: he investigated the DOJ’s conduct during its 2016 probe of Trump’s campaign and Russian interference in the election. And when Horowitz issued his report on December 9, 2019, Wertheimer explains, Barr “immediately attacked the report” — which he hoped would be more critical of the DOJ’s 2016 activities.

Then, in 2019, Wertheimer writes, the U.S. attorney general refused to recuse himself from the Ukraine scandal — even though a whistleblower’s complaint, according to Wertheimer, “clearly implicates Barr” in the matter.

“The actions taken by the Justice Department to prevent the explosive whistleblower complaint from reaching Congress ultimately were unsuccessful, but this in no way mitigates the improper failure by Barr to recuse himself from the matter,” Wertheimer observes.

Wertheimer concludes his Just Security piece on a troubling note, stressing that Barr is “unfit” for his position.

“Barr’s actions have been in stark conflict with his duty to administer the ‘impartial administration of justice on behalf of all Americans,’” Wertheimer asserts. “He has seriously and repeatedly undermined the integrity and credibility of the Justice Department. William Barr has failed the American people and is unfit to serve as attorney general.”

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