Barr None
February 18, 2020

More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials, current federal prosecutors, and federal judges are urgently concerned about Attorney General William Barr's evident politicization of the Justice Department. Even "Trump voters" should be afraid of "Bill Barr's America," a "banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen," Donald Ayer, a former colleague of Barr's and deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, wrote in The Atlantic on Monday. He elaborated on CNN Monday evening.

Barr was Ayer's successor as deputy attorney general before starting his first go as attorney general a year later, in 1991. In the 40 years the two men have known each other, Ayer told CNN, Barr has "always had a very strong view that the executive ought to have a great deal of power. I've never known quite how far it would go, and there was never any reason to test it, because when he was attorney general under George H.W. Bush, George H.W. Bush had no interest in being an autocrat. So now we're faced with a situation where Bill Barr has won the job of attorney general under a president who apparently does want to be an autocrat."

In The Atlantic, Ayer writes that "it is not too strong to say that Bill Barr is un-American," and he elaborated on CNN. "The reason that I say that he's un-American is because I think it's fair to say, and I think most people would agree with me, that the central tenet of our legal system and our justice system is that no person is above the law," he wrote. "Bill Barr's vision is quite different. Bill Barr's vision is that there is one man, one person who needs to be above the law, and that is the president. ... He said that before he became attorney general but he's now carried it out in many steps."

Ayer elaborated on the ways he thinks Barr is harming America in his Atlantic article, concluding that to prevent this "banana republic," America needs "a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached." Read more at The Atlantic. Peter Weber

December 5, 2019

President Trump said Tuesday that while he thinks next week's report on the FBI's Russia investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz will still have some "devastating" findings, he is really looking forward to the conclusions of a parallel investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham. Durham, selected and assisted by Attorney General William Barr in the broader investigation into the Russia investigation's origins, actually makes a cameo in Horowitz's report, The Washington Post reports, and not in a way likely to please either Barr or Trump.

Horowitz reportedly contacted Durham to ask if he had uncovered any evidence that Joseph Mifsud, a shadowy Maltese professor who told Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton, was secretly a Western intelligence asset. "Durham said he had no such evidence," the Post reports. "U.S. officials suspect that Mifsud has ties to Russian intelligence," but Papadopoulos has claimed "he believes Mifsud is some type of Western intelligence asset and that he was set up." U.S. intelligence agencies also reportedly told Horowitz he was not one of their assets.

Trump's allies have latched on to that theory as proof the Trump-Russia investigation was launched on false pretenses. According to reports from people who have read drafts of Horowitz's report, he concluded that the FBI had adequate cause to launch its investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, though he also uncovered some irregularities in the FBI's applications for surveillance warrants. CBS News reports that the issue he focused on was whether the FBI withheld exculpatory information when renewing those warrants.

The Post also includes some caveats in its report on Misfud, including that Horowitz's report is still in draft form, the newspaper hasn't reviewed the draft report, and it's "unclear whether Durham has shared the entirety of his findings and evidence with the inspector general or merely answered a specific question." Peter Weber

May 2, 2019

"Attorney General William P. Barr entered office with more credibility than many Trump appointees," The Washington Post said in an editorial Wednesday night. "Mr. Barr avowed loyalty to the Justice Department's mission and, nearing the end of his career, seemed to have little incentive to serve as another Trump sycophant. Yet Mr. Barr has lit his reputation on fire, and he just added more fuel during his Wednesday testimony before a Senate panel."

Barr's explanations for his "highly misleading representation" and "manipulation" of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings don't add up, the Post writes, and "it is long past time the public stopped hearing Mr. Barr's views on how Mr. Mueller feels, and heard from the special counsel himself."

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday evening his committee is still negotiating with the Justice Department to schedule Mueller's testimony, but Barr is apparently so "terrified of facing a skilled attorney" and "afraid of facing more effective examination," he isn't showing up for Thursday's scheduled testimony.

Other House Judiciary Committee Democrats joined in the needling. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said on Twitter he's "not surprised #Barr is scared" of testifying "after his terrible performance" Wednesday in the Senate. "I'm thinking that after we subpoena chicken Barr and force him to testify," he added, "I'm going to invite Sen. Kamala Harris to the hearing and then I'm going to yield my time to her." Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) started the "chicken" thing Monday:

Barr is officially balking because Nadler wants staff lawyers to ask questions. That's an unusual arrangement but not unprecedented. You can read W. Neil Eggleston's account of being on both sides of those questions at Slate. Peter Weber

May 1, 2019

As some of Attorney General William Barr's previous statements to Congress come under scrutiny, one Democratic senator is calling for his resignation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller in March wrote a letter to Barr expressing frustration that Barr's four-page memo to Congress "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of his investigation, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

After Mueller sent this letter, Barr testified before Congress, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) asked him, "Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?" Barr responded, "I don't know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion."

In light of Tuesday's report, the Democratic senator resurfaced this video, writing that Barr "totally misled me, the Congress, and the public" and that he "must resign."

Van Hollen subsequently spoke with the Post and said that Barr's statement is "totally inconsistent with what he knew at the time," although he said he wanted to go over the full letter before determining if Barr lied to Congress.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday also flagged this exchange, while other Democrats pointed to Barr suggesting he didn't know anything about reports of the special counsel's frustrations with his summary. Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro also said that Barr should resign "or face an impeachment inquiry immediately."

The Justice Department on Tuesday told the Post that Mueller didn't claim anything in Barr's letter was "inaccurate or misleading" but that he was frustrated with the "lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the Special Counsel's obstruction analysis." Brendan Morrow

April 11, 2019

With President Trump veering toward his own version of George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" moment with his "total exoneration" victory lap on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's still-secret report, Attorney General William Barr could have tried to be a scrupulously neutral arbiter. Instead, even people who gave the new attorney general the benefit of the doubt are throwing up their hands at his handling of Mueller's report and the counterterrorism investigation that preceded it.

Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe called Barr's comments Wednesday about how he thinks there was "spying" on the Trump campaign "utterly jaw-dropping," adding: "How Barr, whom I once worked with and respected, can look himself in the mirror or sleep at night is beyond me." Investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald apologized for thinking Barr was "honorable" and people were "overreacting with fear he would be a Trump toady. ... I was wrong. Barr is a hack."

"I am not one of the many people looking to think ill of Barr," writes Lawfare's Benjamin Wittes. But his comments about "spying" were "indefensible," "incendiary," and "reckless." Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper raised similar concerns on CNN Wednesday night.

"Barr is wading into a political and legal quagmire here and of course he knows that," argues Bloomberg Opinion editor Tim O'Brien:

He's also, in his own soft-spoken and resolute way, dropping depth charges into the national conversation about the Trump presidency and the Trump-Russia investigation, and he knows that, too. [...] To clarify: Barr has no evidence of improprieties in the FBI investigation, including 'spying,' but wants to examine the matter anyway because he has concerns and because, as he said, he believes that spying did occur (even if he hasn't seen evidence of it). [Bloomberg Opinion]

"Trump has complained, notably, that Jeff Sessions didn't act like Roy Cohn when he was attorney general," O'Brien concludes. "Cohn was a ruthless and sleazy attack dog who taught Trump how to weaponize the legal system to get his own way as a young developer in New York. Barr certainly isn't anything like Cohn. But he's trying." Peter Weber

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