Two ethics-promoting groups in government have called for the impeachment of US Attorney General William Barr, accusing him of breaking laws and undermining public confidence in the Justice Department.
Barr used the department to continue President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, said a bipartisan group of lawyers from the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in a report. report released Monday, three weeks before the US election.
The authors warned that Barr’s appointment of U.S. Attorney John Durham to review the origins of the Russia investigation, and Barr’s willingness to discuss the investigation in press interviews, underscore efforts to create a politically orchestrated “October surprise”. Such actions could violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their offices to support a particular candidate in an election, they wrote.
The authors, some of whom have held prominent legal and ethical positions in previous Republican and Democratic administrations, are the latest to voice concerns that Barr is pursuing a partisan political agenda and selective law enforcement. Earlier this month 1,600 former Justice Department officials signed an open letter criticizing what they called Barr’s willingness to use the department to support Trump’s re-election effort. Although the Justice Department has traditionally kept live investigations secret, it recently informed prosecutors that they may publish investigations into electoral matters, including allegations of voter fraud.
“The task force has come to the reluctant conclusion that Attorney General Barr is using the powers of the ministry as a means to support President Donald Trump’s political goals,” they wrote. “It appears that the ministry has moved from a system subject to the law to one that sees enforcement more as politically discretionary; move from the rule of law to the rule of law. “
Barr has defended the merits of the ministry’s work. While he echoed some of Trump’s election allegations, he was also criticized by the president because Durham failed to launch a bomb lawsuit. Durham is not expected to issue charges or issue a report before the election, a Justice Department official said.
The Durham inquiry is one of nine areas where Barr’s conduct appears to contradict the presumption that the Department of Justice enforces the country’s laws fairly and without political influence, the group said. In nearly 300 pages, they described actions that they said violated not only the Hatch Law, but also obstruction of justice laws.
They focused on areas in which Barr’s conduct drew much criticism, including how they said he “intentionally misinterpreted” Special Advocate Robert Mueller’s report on Russia when he presented it to the American public. They examined Barr’s assignment of several US attorneys, including Durham, to conduct counter-investigations which the report said are “designed to discredit” the Russia investigation and the Mueller report. The newspaper’s writers also examined the Justice Department’s involvement in Trump’s attempt to get the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden; The ministry’s “interference” in politically sensitive matters; Barr’s role in the deployment of federal agents and troops against protesters in Portland, Oregon, and Lafayette Square in Washington DC; and the refusal of the Department of Justice to comply with subpoenas from the House of Representatives. The groups urged the House to open an impeachment inquiry against Barr over his refusal to comply with these subpoenas, among other issues.
“The conduct described in this report is more than sufficient to warrant the opening of such an impeachment inquiry and we recommend that the House Judiciary Committee do so immediately,” they wrote. “The potential charges include abuse of power, obstructing Congress and obstructing justice.”
Authors of the report include Claire Finkelstein, director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, or CERL; Richard Painter, who was a White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush; Virginia Canter, who was a White House associate attorney for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; Stuart Gerson, who served in the Justice Department under Presidents George HW Bush and Clinton; and Donald Ayer, who served in the Department of Justice under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush.
TEAM and CERL also recommended that Congress strengthen the independence of the statute of special advisers, strengthen legal protections for inspectors general, and require all attorneys in the Department of Justice to comply with the ethics advice of own officials. of the ethics of the ministry.
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