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William Barr

Attorney General William Barr speaks as President Donald Trump listens during a press conference  the White House on July 11, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images)

'Barr Must Go': Ethics Groups Demand Congress Impeach Attorney General for Using DOJ as 'Vehicle' to Advance Trump Reelection

"Barr appears to embrace an autocratic view of the power of the executive branch, specifically presidential power."

Jake Johnson, staff writer

A team of legal experts is calling on the House of Representatives to immediately launch formal impeachment proceedings against Attorney General William Barr for an array of abuses during his tenure as the nation's top law enforcement official, including wielding the powers of the Justice Department to advance the political objectives of President Donald Trump.

In a detailed 267-page report (pdf) released Monday, lawyers from the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington made the case that based on his words and actions as attorney general, "Barr appears to embrace an autocratic view of the power of the executive branch, specifically presidential power, and he views his own extensive authority as flowing from this nearly unbounded view of presidential power."

"This authoritarian worldview limits the degree to which Mr. Barr regards himself as bound by the rule of law and makes him see himself as entitled to ignore the laws, ethics, and historical practices that have helped to ensure that the work of the department is in line with the values of a democratic nation," the report reads.

After closely examining Barr's record since his confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate last February, the legal experts conclude that Trump's attorney general is guilty of numerous transgressions and politically motivated decisions that warrant his impeachment, including:

  • "Seriously and intentionally" mischaracterizing the findings of the Mueller report in Trump's favor;
  • Appointing U.S. Attorney John Durham to review the origins of the Mueller probe, prompting concerns of a politically motivated ploy to announce "high level indictments" right before the November election;
  • Political interference by the Justice Department in the cases of Michael Flynn and Roger Stone;
  • Exploiting "loopholes in the law" to justify deploying federal troops to crush protests in U.S. cities like Portland, Oregon at Trump's behest;
  • Ramping up "surveillance and other law enforcement activities aimed at the political left," including allegedly tapping protesters' phones; and
  • Repeatedly stonewalling attempts by Congress to conduct lawful oversight of Justice Department activities; and
  • Making "scores of unsubstantiated claims" suggesting that mail-in voting is highly vulnerable to mass fraud, a narrative also peddled by Trump.

The legal experts said a "common theme" that emerges from their findings is Barr's repeated "use of the DOJ to further President Trump's 2020 re-election campaign."

"The working group came to the reluctant conclusion that Attorney General Barr is using the powers of the Department as a vehicle for supporting the political objectives of President Donald Trump," the report reads. "It appears that the department has transitioned from one that is subject to law, to become one that instead views the application of law as politically discretionary; moving from rule of law to rule by law."

"Such a rule by law system," the report continues, "is the hallmark of regimes that are democracies in name but not in fact."


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