The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Diane Alexander:

Democracy 21 Files Fifth Justice Department Complaint Against AG Barr for Repeated Biased Actions on Behalf of President Trump

Complaint Charges Barr Has Seriously Compromised the Integrity and Credibility Of The Justice Department As An Independent, Nonpartisan Guardian Of The Rights And Protections Of All Americans


Democracy 21 filed a complaint today with the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Department of Justice requesting an investigation and appropriate action against Attorney General William Barr for his "repeated actions demonstrating clear bias on behalf of President Trump's personal political interests."

The complaint charged Barr with "utter disregard of [his] overriding obligation to ensure the 'impartial administration of justice on behalf of all Americans." This is the fifth Justice Department complaint filed by Democracy 21 against AG Barr in less than a year.

"Attorney General Barr has repeatedly acted to accommodate President Trump's efforts to weaponize the Justice Department to protect Trump's friends and punish his perceived enemies," according to Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, who filed the complaint for the group.

"Justice Department rules, standards and norms exist to safeguard the integrity and credibility of the Department and to protect it from political interference. They have been seriously violated by Attorney General Barr in his repeated efforts to protect President Trump and further Trump's personal political interests. The Office of Professional Responsibility is the only place in the Justice Department with authority to hold Barr accountable for his misdeeds and unprofessional conduct. It is essential that the Office fulfill its responsibilities," Wertheimer said.

According to the Democracy 21 complaint:

It is imperative that the Office of Professional Responsibility not stand silent. The country needs to hear from your Office that impartial administration of justice and responsible professional conduct remain the Justice Department standards for all DOJ lawyers--starting with, and most importantly, the Attorney General. Your Office is empowered by DOJ rules to hold the Attorney General accountable for his actions. It is incumbent that your Office act at this critical time for the American people and the Justice Department.

The complaint stated:

This complaint challenges Barr's unprecedented intervention into the Department's handling of the sentencing process for Trump crony and political adviser Roger J. Stone, Jr. This intervention led more than 2,600 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials, who had served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, to call for the resignation of Attorney General Barr.

The complaint continued:

Attorney General Barr's intervention into the Department's handling of the sentencing process for Trump crony Roger Stone is unprecedented. The facts of this matter have been widely reported in the press. Stone was convicted on seven felony accounts of obstruction of Congress and witness tampering. Career prosecutors handling the case recommended to the court a seven-to-nine-year sentence for Stone, in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines and normal Department procedures.

Then, according to an account in The New York Times, "After prosecutors recommended on Monday a seven-to-nine-year sentence for Mr. Stone on seven felony convictions, the president criticized the move. Senior law enforcement officials overruled the career prosecutors the next day, immediately prompting accusations of political interference."

The complaint noted:

Ultimately, Stone received a sentence from the court of 40 months in prison. The fact that this was lower than the sentence recommended by the prosecuting attorneys in accordance with Justice Department policy is irrelevant to the favoritism for Stone that occurred.

According to the complaint:

Attorney General Barr recently has exercised his authority to protect Trump's personal political interests in other ways as well. He has "assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn....," a review that the Times said "is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors."

The complaint said about the IG report on the opening of the Russia investigation and Barr:

The IG found with regard to the opening of the investigation that "under the AG Guidelines and the [FBI Guidelines], the FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire Hurricane to obtain information about, or protect against, a national security threat or federal crime, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected activity." IG Rpt. at iii.

Attorney General Barr immediately attacked the IG report by criticizing and challenging the Inspector General's conclusion that there was a legitimate basis to open the 2016 investigation.

The complaint noted:

The broad picture painted by all of these episodes is that Attorney General Barr continues to enable the weaponization of the Justice Department to advance the personal political interests of President Trump. This is directly contrary to Barr's principal responsibility as Attorney General to ensure fair and impartial justice and to act in the best interests of all Americans, not to serve the personal political interests of the President.

Since Watergate, the norms of the Justice Department have been clear: the Attorney General needs to protect the independence of the Department from interference by the President and the White House, particularly in matters relating to the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the Department, and needs to insulate career prosecutors from political pressure.

The complaint concluded:

As head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, it is your responsibility to hold Attorney General Barr accountable for his unprofessional and damaging conduct. It is your responsibility to protect the integrity and credibility of the Department and its employees, even when the matter involves the Attorney General.

Democracy 21 calls on you to investigate the unprofessional conduct and inappropriate actions by Attorney General Barr in the matters described in this complaint and the previous complaints filed by Democracy 21. We urge you to take appropriate action concerning Attorney General Barr to ensure that the accelerating deterioration of the independence, integrity and credibility of the Justice Department is stopped before irreparable damage is done to the Department.

Read the full complaint here.

Democracy 21 is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to making democracy work for all Americans. Democracy 21, and its education arm, Democracy 21 Education Fund, work to eliminate the undue influence of big money in American politics, prevent government corruption, empower citizens in the political process and ensure the integrity and fairness of government decisions and elections. The organization promotes campaign finance reform and other related political reforms to accomplish these goals.

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