- Attorney General William Barr has shown he has no respect for the law.
- During his time as attorney general, Barr has acted more like President Donald Trump’s personal defense lawyer than as America’s top law-enforcement official.
- If Trump isn’t voted out of office, Democrats should be prepared to impeach Barr.
- Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s time to do something far-reaching about Attorney General Bill Barr.
#ImpeachBarr and #DisBarr climbed the social-media charts over the past week after Barr’s Justice Department moved to intervene on President Donald Trump’s behalf in a defamation lawsuit. In a stunning move, Barr stepped in from the president’s personal lawyers to take over the defense of the case against the commander-in-chief. The suit stems from Trump’s response to a sexual-assault claim.
That’s right: At taxpayer expense, the attorney general is marshaling the resources of the Justice Department to defend Trump on a personal matter — not a governance matter.
It’s just the latest in a long list of actions by Barr to protect the president’s politics at the expense of the rule of law that nourishes our democracy.
Barr has made a new art form of politicizing the Department of Justice and imposing his will through interference, obstruction, and subversion. He has made it clear that he works for the president — not the American people.
Given this reality, it’s time for Congress — especially Democrats — to prepare to impeach Barr.
Blurring bright lines
At every turn as attorney general, Barr increasingly reveals that he’s Trump’s crony.
He has asked foreign governments to discredit the Mueller report.
He has fought tooth and nail to block the release of Trump’s tax returns.
He tried to throw out charges against the former Trump adviser Michael Flynn after he pleaded guilty.
He shamefully defended the Trump ally Roger Stone.
He punishes or fires DOJ officials who don’t fall in line behind Trump.
Barr is Trump’s Fixer General, and he’s not even trying to hide it.
When he was nominated, many thought that, because of his previous run as attorney general, Barr was an institutionalist who respected the laws and values of the DOJ. But then came his manipulation of the Mueller report. The special counsel Robert Mueller himself objected to Barr’s interpretation of the report’s findings, an interpretation that left out key points of the Trump-Russia love affair that were recently confirmed by a Republican-led Senate report.
While such open departures from reality are daily breakfast for this administration, Barr selectively interprets facts to fit Trump’s narrative.
He has no qualms about cherry-picking from reports, espousing unsubstantiated claims, and playing dumb to protect himself and the president.
Just a few of his greatest hit jobs include misrepresenting a report from the DOJ inspector general on the FBI’s Russia investigation, pleading ignorance about some of Trump’s tweets, and firing the US attorney for the Southern District of New York who was investigating Trump’s allies.
Assaults on rights
The role of an attorney general is to protect the rights of the American people. Barr has done the opposite. He has abused his power to endanger the lives of Americans who are exercising their rights.
He ordered and oversaw the use of tear gas on peaceful protesters to help create a photo op for Trump. In Portland, Oregon, protesters have been met with violence and plucked from streets in unmarked vehicles.
Under the guise of “law and order,” Barr has broken the law to create disorder.
The proof is the reaction of longtime career attorneys at the DOJ who have bristled at Barr’s naked politicization of justice. After the DOJ overruled its own prosecutors on Stone’s sentencing, all four prosecutors quit the case. One of the lead prosecutors in the case against Flynn stepped down once Barr stepped in. Several career lawyers objected when Barr intervened to speed up the DOJ’s Google antitrust case.
And right now current and former DOJ lawyers are quietly voicing concerns about the defamation case.
With rare exception, the attorneys who make up the DOJ have tremendous integrity and are focused squarely on right and wrong, not right and left. The level of friction inside the DOJ today is unprecedented, and when numerous respected career lawyers begin sounding the alarm, we need to put out the fire to shield our system of justice.
In normal times, Barr would be impeached at a minimum, but the daily scandal machine has left everyone’s head spinning in Washington, not knowing which outrage to chase first. That’s the president’s strategy.
Many Democrats have reservations about going after Barr. Their rationale is obvious: It would be virtually impossible to remove him from office thanks to the Republican-controlled Senate.
But some Democrats, like the House Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Jerrold Nadler, and the House Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Adam Schiff, have recently warmed to the idea of coming after him more aggressively. They also have found creative ways to put pressure on him, such as by introducing legislation in the House to cut his budget.
As frightening as Trump is for our democracy, Barr’s abuse of the Justice Department adds a new layer of danger. We cannot be a nation whose top attorney is the fixer for a president who openly flouts the law. We cannot allow distractions to obstruct justice. And we cannot have our top law-enforcement officer violate the rights he is sworn to protect.
Democrats have two options. The first is to win the election with Barr’s perversion of justice as a lever. Barr is further evidence of how even our most fundamental American values are on the ballot in November.
If they lose, then the only option is to impeach him. Impeaching Barr would be the underscore for Americans who believe in the bright line between artifice and law. And it would tattoo his life story with impeachment in the same way he has inked the Justice Department with his brand of politics.
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