Will There Be an Investigation of U.S. Attorney General Barr?

February 18, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
Justice Barr

WASHINGTON – A Washington-based advocacy group for government ethics is asking the Justice Department to investigate the U.S. attorney general for his statements about the criminal conviction of an associate of President Donald Trump.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says Attorney General William Barr violated Justice Department rules intended to prevent bias.

He oversaw a Justice Department recommendation for a reduced sentence of Roger Stone, the former Trump campaign political consultant who was convicted in November on seven counts, including witness tampering and lying to investigators. Stone awaits sentencing.

The charges resulted from the Mueller Report and Special Counsel investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Justice Department prosecutors originally recommended to the federal judge that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison. A subsequent sentencing memorandum said the Justice Department “defers to the Court” on a sentence.

The memorandum also cautioned that the original seven-to-nine year recommendation “could be considered excessive and unwarranted.”

Barr’s new recommendation prompted the entire prosecutorial team to resign in protest.

In addition, more than 1,100 former prosecutors and Justice Department officials signed an open letter to Barr criticizing him for ignoring the rule that White House officials not intervene in criminal cases.

“Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice,” the letter says. “In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is increasing pressure on Barr with a complaint filed with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

“Attorney General Barr’s prejudicial statements further appear to be part of a pattern of conduct,” the complaint says.

Previously, Barr implied that he agreed with Trump’s claims the FBI spied on his presidential campaign. He also appeared to seek leniency in the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“Since the beginning of his tenure at the Department of Justice, Attorney General Barr has operated more as the president’s personal attorney than as the country’s chief law enforcement officer,” Noah Bookbinder, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a statement.

Additional calls for an investigation of Barr are coming from Democrats in Congress. Some want him to resign.

Meanwhile, other Justice Department attorneys in its Washington, D.C. office are reportedly considering resigning in protest. 

Justice Department officials deny political meddling in their decision last week to revise their sentence recommendation for Stone. He is scheduled for sentencing Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Barr responded to the firestorm of criticism last week in an interview with ABC News. He denied that Trump has ever asked him to influence a criminal case.

“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr said. “I’m going to do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

He spoke out against Trump’s sometimes flamboyant tweets in defense of his former associates who faced prosecution. Barr said the tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

He added, “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”

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