Phillip Halpern, who served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego for a whopping 36 years, has decided to leave the Justice Department due to the ongoing politicization of its operations by Trump Attorney General Bill Barr. Over and over, Barr has used the Justice Department to advance an agenda that’s favorable to the president, whether that’s via relaxing the criminal cases against prominent Trump allies or via kickstarting a punitive investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that’s been meant to, essentially, dig up dirt on the president’s opponents.
Now, Halpern says, he has had enough. In an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, he insists that with Barr in charge, an atmosphere of respect for the basic principle of the rule of law at the Justice Department has become a relic of a “bygone era.” Barr has even used his position as Attorney General to express support for some of Trump’s wildest conspiracies, like the idea that there’s a potential for widespread fraud with the usage of mail-in ballots and the idea that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign, which did not actually happen.
‘After 36 years, I’m fleeing what was the U.S. Department of Justice — where I proudly served 19 different attorneys general and six different presidents. For the last three-plus decades, I have respected our leadership regardless of whether we were led by a Republican or a Democrat. I always believed the department’s past leaders were dedicated to the rule of law and the guiding principle that justice is blind. That is a bygone era, but it should not be forgotten.’
Halpern added that “over the last year, Barr’s resentment toward rule-of-law prosecutors became increasingly difficult to ignore, as did his slavish obedience to Donald Trump’s will in his selective meddling with the criminal justice system in the Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases.” Barr has “never actually investigated, charged or tried a case,” Halpern noted, despite his current position as the top law enforcement official in the United States, insisting that Barr — who he described as a “career bureaucrat” — “seems determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy.”
Barr, of course, is definitely not acting alone. He is carrying out the political will of Donald Trump, whether he’s always intentionally doing so or not. Trump has repeatedly threatened to reject the election results in November if he loses, and his lies about the distribution of election fraud could be used as fuel for potential court cases challenging the results. Barr seems likely to take a lead role if these cases emerge. The cases would be meant to essentially hamstring the basic processes of governance in the United States.
Halpern, meanwhile, says that he stayed on at the Justice Department in part in order to help see through the prosecution of now former Congressman Duncan Hunter, a Trump ally who carried out a wide-ranging campaign embezzlement scheme. Halpern says that upon his departure, he takes “great comfort in the fact that the career people who remain in the Department of Justice are firmly committed to the rule of law, and are some of the most dedicated, ethical and industrious individuals we have in government.”