William Barr must end his facade of integrity

Stuart Lombard

On Feb. 14, 2019, William “Bill” Barr was confirmed by the Senate to be the next U.S. Attorney General. On that day, he should have resigned.

When Bill Barr was confirmed, he was supposed to be different. The permanent replacement for Jeff Sessions, who was fired in November 2018, was supposed to restore faith in the Justice Department. Sessions had never recovered politically from recusing himself in the Mueller investigation.

During his confirmation hearing, Barr made his case. In his written testimony, Barr said that the Mueller investigation should be allowed to continue.

Barr also made it clear that “as Attorney General, my allegiance will be to the rule of law, the Constitution, and the American people…If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with [the Mueller investigation] or any other investigation.”

But throughout his hearing Barr was weighed down by a memo he had written the previous summer. This memo made the case that the president had the authority to start and stop law enforcement proceedings.

In the end, Barr was confirmed, mostly along party lines.

A year later, it seemed like he had enough. On Feb. 10, when federal prosecutors recommended a seven to nine-year sentence for Roger Stone – a close Trump ally and advisor.

As the Roger Stone case was being brought by the Department of Justice, all complaints could be directed at Attorney General Barr. And there were complaints.

President Trump fired back on Feb. 11, tweeting, “This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”

Later that day, the Justice Department issued a Supplemental and Amended Sentencing Memorandum, in which they made the case for a lower sentence for Stone, ultimately leaving the matter to the discretion of the judge.

As a result of the document, all four government prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case.

On Feb. 13, Barr appeared on ABC saying that the president’s public comments regarding the Justice Department “make it impossible for me to do my job” while making it clear that he was “not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”

One year after his confirmation, Attorney General Barr should have tendered his resignation in order to honour and uphold the principles that he said that he stood for during his confirmation hearing.

But despite his strong rebuke against the president, and the resulting bullying via Twitter, Barr will not quit. Barr had to at least appear to stand his ground, and the president had to make a rebuttal.

I think that the exchange between Barr and the president was a show, allowing for Barr to maintain the façade of the integrity of his office. But if he wanted to honor his office, he should have resigned.

Barr has now demonstrated that he is not immune to partisan politics and the strong-handed influence of president Trump. What we can learn from this is that the rule of law in the U.S. is in trouble? The president now knows that he can upset the balance of justice without facing the consequences.

Barr will not resign because he is still in the president’s favor.

Until that changes, Bill Barr will continue to be an Attorney General in President Trump’s swamp.