Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Ethics Groups Say Barr’s Use of DOJ Is Shredding Its Essential Independence

Ethics Groups Say Barr’s Use of DOJ Is Shredding Its Essential Independence

Just Security

new report from two independent, non-partisan groups focused on ethics in government excoriates the operation of the Justice Department during the tenure of Attorney General William Barr. In their report, titled “Report on the Department of Justice and the Rule of Law Under the Tenure of Attorney General William Barr (the “Report”), the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL), affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) decry the politicization that’s taken place under Barr. The groups accuse Barr of misusing his office to further the partisan political goals of President Donald Trump and, in the most draconian of a series of proffered “Recommendations,” call for the House of Representatives to begin a formal impeachment inquiry into the conduct of the attorney general.

The Report was undertaken “to address serious concerns about the activities of the Department of Justice (“the DOJ”) under the leadership of Attorney General William Barr with respect to the rule of law,” and represents a deep dive into multiple incidents where the DOJ has been used to further the personal and political objectives of Trump in a manner not seen since the days of Watergate. The Report presents a veritable laundry list of questionable actions initiated by Barr that have repeatedly compromised the independence, both real and perceived, of the DOJ including:

  • the attorney general’s handling of, and commentary on, the Mueller Report in the spring of 2018;
  • Barr’s authorization of, and repeated public commentary on, the “counter” investigations conducted by U.S. Attorneys John Durham and John Bash that appear intended only as partisan tools to undermine the well-founded conclusions and extensive work performed by, respectively, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the Intelligence Community in its January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, and even the detailed inquiry on Russian election interference conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee;
  • the politicization of DOJ with respect to criminal prosecutions of Trump political allies like Michael Flynn and Roger Stone,
  • the attorney general’s abuse of federal emergency powers in connection with activities affecting the southern border and the aggressive federal responses to civil protests;
  • the firing of politically independent federal employees like inspectors general and U.S. Attorneys;
  • the attorney general’s almost contemptuous disregard for legitimate congressional oversight and his support, both tacit and explicit, for actions that undermine the separation of powers; and
  • numerous incidents that, individually and, certainly, collectively, reflect the attorney general’s effort to mobilize the DOJ to pursue the personal legal and political interests of the president.

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