Attorney General Bill Barr has faced some steep opposition during his time as the top law enforcement officer in the United States. Now, about 1,600 former employees of the Justice Department have signed onto a letter that calls the Attorney General out for politicizing the department’s operations for the benefit of President Donald Trump. In their sobering new letter, the former Justice staffers write that they “fear that Attorney General Barr intends to use the DOJ’s vast law enforcement powers to undermine our most fundamental democratic value: free and fair elections.”
1,600 former Justice Department lawyers are accusing Bill Barr of using the Justice Department to help Trump in the presidential election. https://t.co/cYn8gvT0bv
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 5, 2020
There are a number of available examples of Barr shilling for Trump while U.S. Attorney General. For instance, early in his time on the job, Barr temporarily obscured key facts of the Robert Mueller-led Russia investigation from the public. More recently, he has tasked prosecutor John Durham with a seemingly politically motivated look at the origins of the Russia investigation, and Barr has also backed up Trumpian conspiracy theories ranging from the lie that the Trump campaign was spied on to the lie that mail-in ballots pose a serious election fraud threat. These efforts, from the Durham investigation to the lie-riddled election fraud conspiracy theory, could be used as cudgels against the integrity of the elections in possible post-Election Day court cases or in other contexts.
The Justice Department already rushed to announce an investigation into mail-in ballots that had been discarded in Pennsylvania. State officials said that the ballots were discarded accidentally by a temporary worker who was since let go. There’s no evidence of conspiracy or foul play. Couldn’t the Justice Department have waited to determine these basic facts before their abrupt public announcement?
Meanwhile, Barr has already suggested that findings from the Durham-led investigation into the origins of the Russia probe could be released before Election Day (although, of course, that may not pan out).
Referring to Barr’s suggestion of a pre-Election Day release from Durham’s investigation, the letter from ex-Justice employees said:
‘Such a blatant politicization and abuse of federal law enforcement power risks immense and lasting harm to our democracy and to the integrity and reputation of the DOJ. Given Attorney General Barr’s demonstrated willingness to use the Department to help President Trump politically, the media and the public should view any election-related activity by the DOJ – including any announcement or findings related to the Durham investigation – with appropriate skepticism.’
The letter also criticizes Barr over his recent criticism of long-serving career prosecutors at the Department. In a recent speech at Hillsdale College, Barr insisted that these prosecutors “do not have the political legitimacy to be the public face of tough decisions.” The letter counters:
‘Attorney General Barr’s comments display a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of career prosecutors and why many of them have openly resisted his interventions on President Trump’s behalf. While it is of course true that the DOJ is managed by its political leaders, when those leaders violate their oath to faithfully execute the law, the career staff is obligated by their own oaths of office to uphold the principle of equal justice under law.’
Barr’s politicization of the Justice Department is one of many consequences of the Trump team’s ideology-driven self-dealing while in power. They’ve eroded government at just about every turn.