Blistering report to warn of the 'grave danger' posed by Bill Barr and his attempts to get Trump re-elected
Critics of President Donald Trump have been arguing that one of the main reasons to vote him out of office in November is removing William Barr from his position as U.S. attorney general. And the Trump loyalist's opponents, according to Washington Post reporter James Hohmann, will have some more material to work with: a forthcoming 277-page report from the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Due out next week, the Center/CREW report, Hohmann stresses, is "sharply critical" of Barr — and it's also quite comprehensive.
The report, according to Hohmann, "focuses on nine areas, including the misleading summary Barr initially offered of Special Counsel Bob Mueller's conclusions; the Justice Department's handling of the whistleblower complaint related to President Trump's infamous call with Ukraine's president; his intervention in politically sensitive prosecutions, such as the cases of former Trump advisers Roger Stone and Michael Flynn; the deployment of federal agents and troops against protestors, including the order to clear Lafayette Square; the firing or reassignment of U.S. attorneys, especially in the Southern District of New York; his role in trying to block the publication of material unflattering to the president, such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton's memoir; the politicization of several offices within the department, in particular the Office of Legal Counsel; and his resistance to congressional oversight, including subpoenas."
According to Hohmann, the authors of the report warn that Barr's actions could have a chilling effect on gathering information about possible foreign interference in this year's election.
The authors write, "There is a grave danger to the intelligence community from politicized DOJ investigations, intimidation and potential prosecutions. The use of a criminal investigation is ill-suited to examining the process of foreign intelligence analysis, poses unnecessary risks to intelligence sources and methods, intimidates and alienates foreign intelligence analysts, and chills the analytic process in a way likely to undermine the candor essential to producing the best intelligence information for national policymakers."
They continue, "The cumulative effects are likely to increase the attrition of talented intelligence personnel and neutralize the concept of 'speaking truth to power' that is essential to the effective use of intelligence in national policy decisions. All of this weakens prospective U.S. intelligence capabilities to the advantage of Russia and other adversaries in competition with the interests and goals of the United States."
Hohmann notes that the three chairs of the bipartisan working group that spent several months preparing the report are: (1) Claire Finkelstein, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, (2) University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, and (3) CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. Defenders of Trump and Barr will probably try to paint the report as the work of Democratic Party ideologues, but in fact, Painter served as chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush.
The working group, according to Hohmann, reached the "reluctant conclusion" that Barr is "using the powers" of the U.S. Department of Justice to help Trump get reelected.
Others in the working group range from Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, former general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, to Stuart Gerson, who ran the DOJ's civil division under Bush.