Constitutional law professor: Bill Barr's ‘tenure’ as attorney general has been ‘far worse than I expected’
During Attorney General William Barr’s Senate confirmation hearing in February 2019, Neil Kinkopf (a professor of constitutional law at Georgia State University) urged senators to reject President Donald Trump’s nominee. And a year later, in an article for Just Security, Kinkopf asserts that Barr’s “tenure” as U.S. attorney general has turned out to be “far worse than I expected.”
Barr was confirmed, 54-45, along largely partisan lines. Only one Republican in the Senate, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, voted against Barr’s confirmation — and only three Senate Democrats voted in his favor: West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and Alabama’s Doug Jones.
During his testimony, Kinkopf stressed that he was troubled by Barr’s expansive approach to the U.S. government’s executive branch. Kinkopf testified, “Public confidence in the rule of law depends on there being an attorney general who will not allow the president to do whatever he wants with the Justice Department. William Barr’s views of presidential power are so radically mistaken that he is simply the wrong man at the wrong time to be attorney general of the United States.”
A year later, Kinkopf believes that he should have been even harder on Barr during his testimony before the U.S. Senate.
“I am not saying here that I told you so,” Kinkopf writes. “Rather, my warning was insufficiently dire.”
Barr’s actions as attorney general, according to Kinkopf, have underscored his wrong-headed belief in “an imperial executive” and a belief that the United States’ Founding Fathers wanted to “model the presidency on the King of England in order to provide a check against their real concern: a too powerful legislature.”
“It bears emphasizing that this narrative has no support in the actual history of the Constitution,” Kinkopf warns. “If there was any precept on which the founding generation universally agreed, it was that they did not wish to recreate the monarchy.”