Lawyers who held political positions in the Trump administration were persecuted by doubts about their qualifications or their caliber.
In 2018, an employee of the Ministry of Justice was appointed acting attorney general, which is the ministry’s top priority.
Last week, the president put a young friend of his aide Stephen Miller on a pyramid of 2,500 lawyers as general counsel in the Department of Homeland Security.
But there is a Trump officer whose readiness has never been questioned. William Barr, 69, and a 40-year-old veteran in Washington, was confirmed a year ago as Attorney General, a position with broad judicial influence and broad public trust influence.
“Barr is particularly effective,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute and a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, “because he’s one of the few exceptions among Trump’s-appointed individuals – someone who qualifies both for the job is. ” and has enough experience to know how to do it well.
“Unfortunately, he decided to be an enabler.”
At the end of a historically turbulent week for the Department of Justice with unknown impacts on the country, this combination of barr – power and a knack for exercising – has triggered a violent alarm in Washington and beyond.
The fear is that Barr’s competence has changed from virtue to vice because of a trait that he seems to lack or have lost: judgment in the face of an unattached president.
Trump’s actions reflect his belief that, as he said, he really has an absolute right to intervene anywhere
Barr was once seen as a potential control for Trump’s apparent desire to take command of the Justice Department and use his investigators and prosecutors at his whim and will. Critics warn, however, that the Attorney General was exposed this week as an avid accomplice in undermining norms designed to protect the criminal justice system from political interference and to threaten the basic principle of equality before the law.
“We fought a revolution against royal privilege,” said Rosenzweig. “In an extreme case, Trump’s measures after last week’s impeachment reflect his belief that he really has an absolute right to intervene anywhere in the executive, as he said, and there is a word for that.
“People with absolute rights are kings.”
Trump was never shy about his intentions. On Friday morning, he raised the alarm when he insisted that he had “the legal right” to intervene in criminal matters.
But developments over the past week have changed public understanding of how closely Barr is connected to the President and how extensive his collaboration has been.
These developments included Barr’s intervention in a case with Trump’s friend Roger Stone, which led to the withdrawal of four prosecutors. the resignation of a prominent former US lawyer who had previously been barred by Barr; and the release of a rare public warning from a federal judge about the independence of the courts.
“Bill Barr has turned the job of attorney general and political officer at the head of the Department of Justice upside down,” said Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor who worked under Bill Clinton’s Office of Legal Counsel.
“In previous administrations of both political parties, the Department of Justice policy officers were tasked with protecting the rest of the Ministry from political pressure. And instead, Bill Barr has become the channel for this political pressure. “
“Smart, careful and full of it”
Barr hasn’t been unaffected by the turmoil of the past week. Reported threats of additional resignations prompted him to grant a television interview Thursday complaining that Trump’s tweets “made it impossible for me to do my job” and vowed, “I will not be bullied or influenced by anyone.”
A Trump spokesman said the president’s feelings were not hurt. Barr is said to have warned the White House of what he would say.
The interview sparked outrage and attention from critics who saw a big difference between what Barr said and everything he did.
“I think Bill Barr is smart, deliberate, smart, calculating, careful and full of it,” tweeted former US attorney Preet Bharara.
Critics say the real Barr has a 12-month track record spearheading Trump’s attack on the judiciary, from public lies to special adviser Robert Mueller’s report to his intervention in Roger Stone’s case.
In a prominent early incident among many, in which Barr’s loyalty to the president seemed to outstrip critics his loyalty to the nation, Barr called a press conference last April and offered a misleading preview of Mueller’s report. He omitted the detailed description of the report on Trump’s possible hindrance to the judiciary and incorrectly claimed that the White House had cooperated fully.
In May, Barr hired a U.S. attorney to investigate the origins of the Russian investigation into a Trump obsession. In July, Barr traveled to London to ask intelligence officials for help with the investigation. In September he made a similar trip to Italy.
Barr recently announced the creation of a “recording process” for information that Rudy Giuliani has gathered through an investigation into Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. On Friday, the New York Times reported that Barr had hired outside prosecutors to investigate the prosecution of former national security advisor Michael Flynn and other Trump-related suspects.
In August, Barr refused to withdraw from a Department of Justice review of a whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of requesting foreign interference in the 2020 election, despite being mentioned in the report. The review did not reveal any wrongdoing by the President, who survived impeachment on the matter.
This type of direct interference by the President in certain ongoing law enforcement activities is exceptional
But no previous action by Barr has triggered such a crisis as his intervention this week in the Stone case.
As a result, Barr instructed the District of Columbia law firm, which handles many prominent federal government-related cases, to reconsider its recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for Stone, who has been convicted of obstructing the judiciary and witness manipulation among other crimes.
It was unclear whether Barr gave his instruction before or after a Trump tweet that described the case as “a terrible and very unfair situation” and “judicial error.” In any case, the US attorney, a handpicked ally of Barr, made a new recommendation for an easier sentence, and the four prosecutors who signed the original recommendation withdrew from the case in apparent protest.
“I think it’s like a moment of glass breaking because it’s so open,” said Harry Sandick, a former US attorney in the southern district of New York who helped draft a letter published by New York City Bar Association on Wednesday calls for an “immediate investigation”.
Kinkopf said: “This is a really significant break. This type of direct interference by the President in certain ongoing law enforcement activities is exceptional. Also for this President and Attorney General. “
Barr’s intervention in the Stone case came after he orchestrated a substitute for Washington State Attorney General Jessie Liu in dire circumstances. Liu had been tapped for a financial position and was replaced in the US law firm by Timothy Shea, a Barr loyalist. Then, this week, Trump withdrew Liu’s nomination – and she resigned from the government.
“One wonders if other tweets could lead to people being accused, people seeking harsher punishments,” Sandick said. “We are concerned about the possibility that the US attorney in Washington DC has been replaced because she may not be ready to indict [former FBI official] Andrew McCabe or James Comey or others. “
ON another Trump attack Earlier this week, the judge in the Paul Manafort and Stone cases and the DC prosecutor’s office issued a rare reprimand on Thursday from the District of Columbia’s top US judge, Beryl A Howell.
“The judges of this court base their judgments on a careful examination of the factual evidence in the present case. the applicable sentencing guidelines and legal factors; the statements of the parties, the probation officer and the victims; and their own judgment and experience, ”Howell said.
“Public criticism or pressure don’t matter.”
“Immense suffering, wreck and misery”
Barr grew up in New York City, graduated from George Washington University Law School, served in the Reagan administration, and served as Attorney General under George HW Bush. He set a record as a hardliner for gang violence and immigration and campaigned for pardons in the Iran contra.
He is a pious Catholic who, in a speech in October at Notre Dame University, describes how the American experiment depends on the progress of “Judeo-Christian moral standards” and the attack on “militant secularists” whose “campaign to destroy traditional moral” Order “brought with it immense suffering, wreck and misery”.
Barr’s long career in public life prompted some Department of Justice veterans to welcome his appointment as Attorney General in late 2018 because of concerns about who else Trump could choose.
There was some hope that he would be a Prosecutor General in the traditional model … he was a big disappointment
“Initially, there was some hope that he would be a traditional-style attorney general,” said Rosenzweig. “And I admit that myself, I thought that was the case and I thought it was a fairly traditional appointment.
“And he was a big disappointment.”
However, there were also warnings of Barr, particularly in connection with a memo he submitted to the department, arguing that Trump’s allegedly “disabled” judiciary allegedly misunderstood Mueller’s investigation.
Kinkopf was among those who warned that Barr’s view of executive power was dangerously far-reaching, and told the Guardian that “it is very close to putting the president above the law.”
But at the time there was room to believe that Barr’s theories would remain theories, Kinkopf now says.
“Even among people who have advocated this theory of the power of the president,” he said, “there are very longstanding standards in the Department of Justice and the White House to respect the independence of the Department of Justice.”
Barr has not confirmed his followers, said Kinkopf.
“His theory is that the Constitution allows it, but good faith service in the President’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office preserves the credibility and apolitical nature of law enforcement. This has long been the norm, regardless of the president’s perspective.
“Barr completely wiped it out.”