Two ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr

Two ethics groups are calling on the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against Attorney General William BarrBill BarrEx-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. ‘will ignore’ Trump’s threats against political rivals Pompeo says he expects more Clinton emails to be released before election Trump calls into Rush Limbaugh’s show for two hours MORE, alleging he has used the role for political reasons to support President TrumpDonald John TrumpDes Moines mayor says he’s worried about coronavirus spread at Trump rally Judiciary Committee Democrats pen second letter to DOJ over Barrett disclosures: ‘raises more questions that it answers’ Trump asks campaign to schedule daily events for him until election: report MORE

According to Reuters, the two groups are the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law and the Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The groups wrote in a 267-page research paper that Barr has an “authoritarian worldview” that “makes him see himself as entitled to ignore laws, ethics, and historical practices” as the attorney general. The report also called on House lawmakers to begin an impeachment inquiry into Barr.

The report from the group points to Barr’s involvement in the release of the final findings of former Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN’s Toobin warns McCabe is in ‘perilous condition’ with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill’s 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE‘s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election among other actions. 

It’s not the first time Barr has faced calls to be impeached. Earlier this year, Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenJewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen wins Democratic primary Democrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat MORE (D-Tenn.), an outspoken progressive on the House Judiciary Committee, called for Barr to be impeached, alleging violations of the law.

“We should pursue impeachment of Bill Barr because he is reigning terror on the rule of law,” Cohen said in June.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump slight against Gold Star families adds to military woes Pelosi calls Trump administration policies on testing and tracing inadequate Trump claims he is ‘immune’ from coronavirus, defends federal response MORE (D-Calif.) threw cold water on the idea, saying that voters will be able to make that decision at the ballot box in November. 

“So he is contemptible, there’s no question about that. But at this point, let’s solve our problems by going to the polls and voting on Election Day, 131 days from now,” Pelosi said at the time.

 

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Bill Barr Faces Criticism Over Refusal to Quarantine After Rose Garden Event

Attorney General William Barr is facing mounting criticism over his refusal to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 at the Supreme Court nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday.



Chris Christie, Lavinia Wilson, C. Boyden Gray standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Attorney General William Barr greets former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the Rose Garden at the White House on September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.


© Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Attorney General William Barr greets former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the Rose Garden at the White House on September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Some fear the September 26 event was a possible catalyst of the White House coronavirus outbreak. At least eight attendees have tested positive since the ceremony. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with the virus one day after Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest aides, became infected.

World Reacts To Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Testing Positive For Coronavirus

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GOP Senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis also tested positive, as well as former White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway—whom Barr was seen in close contact with during the event.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 14 days of quarantine for anyone who has been exposed to the virus, a rule Barr has apparently chosen not to follow.

“Barr’s refusal to quarantine after exposure is not ‘toughness,'” tweeted University of Michigan Law Professor Barbara McQuade, who’s also a former U.S. attorney. “It is arrogant, irresponsible, and reckless behavior from our nation’s attorney general.”

Andrew Weissmann, a longtime Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer turned legal analyst, said Barr’s decision was “fitting” for an “enabler of presidential fictions and denier of facts.”

Video: Trump downplayed the coronavirus the same week he tested positive (The Washington Post)

Trump downplayed the coronavirus the same week he tested positive

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“This is reckless and dangerous for any person—especially a person who wields power to summon others,” tweeted former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. “He’s putting DOJ staffers, and everyone else around him, at risk.”

Some attendees of the White House event last Saturday moved indoors following the official nomination of Barrett at the Rose Garden. While all guests tested negative for COVID before the event, face masks were not required at the reception and many guests were pictured mingling in close proximity without one. CNN political reporter Rebecca Buck shared an image of Barr standing close to Trump and the first lady at the reception.

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Barr accused of ‘working hand in glove’ with Team Trump, White House

Donald Trump appeared certain that, at long last, he had evidence of a nefarious election scheme. As the president told the public, a handful of ballots in a Republican-friendly county in Pennsylvania had been thrown in the trash, when they should’ve been counted for the GOP ticket. The claims were soon elevated by the White House, the Trump campaign, the Justice Department, and conservative media.

It wasn’t long, however, before the story faded — because it wasn’t quite true. There was an administrative error in Luzerne County, Pa., but there was no evidence of a local conspiracy to rig the election for Joe Biden. Those looking for proof to substantiate the president’s conspiracy theories would have to look elsewhere.

But the story did raise an entirely different set of questions, not about election officials in a midsize county in northeastern Pennsylvania, but about Attorney General Bill Barr.

Why did the Republican lawyer brief Trump directly on the unimportant case? Why did Barr’s Justice Department ignore its own guidelines and issue a statement about an incomplete investigation? Why did the DOJ statement include factual errors?

There’s no reason to be coy. The attorney general has made little effort to hide his efforts to politicize his office and federal law enforcement, and the Luzerne County incident appeared to be part of Barr’s election-season tactics.

Making matters worse, of course, is the scope of these tactics. Politico connected the dots this way:

The prosecution of Michael Flynn. A Senate investigation into the provenance of the Steele Dossier. The nascent federal probe of discarded absentee ballots in Pennsylvania. In recent days, the Justice Department has declassified or disclosed sensitive materials related to each of these proceedings that, on the surface, have little to do with each other. Yet within hours, President Donald Trump had weaponized each to boost his reelection campaign.

Last week, James D. Herbert, a current federal prosecutor, wrote in the Boston Globe about “the unprecedented politicization of the office of the attorney general,” adding that Barr “acts as though his job is to serve only the political interests of Donald J. Trump. This is a dangerous abuse of power…. For 30 years I have been proud to say I work for the Department of Justice, but the current attorney general has brought shame on the department he purports to lead.”

He’s hardly alone. Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor from Virginia, told Politico, “The attorney general is working hand in glove with the White House and the Trump re-election campaign.”

The handling of the Luzerne County matter was especially egregious, though it might be easier to overlook if it were an isolated incident. It’s not. Vox had a related report along these lines:

Most notably, a US attorney made a vague, partially inaccurate statement Thursday about problems with a handful of military ballots in one Pennsylvania county…. Also Thursday, Barr released some information that he suggested cast further doubt on a major source for the Steele dossier, sending it in

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Justice Dept. Denies House Panel’s Request for Officials to Appear After Combative Barr Hearing

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Monday denied a congressional oversight committee’s request to hear from top officials, accusing Democrats of having “squandered” their opportunity to get relevant information from Attorney General William P. Barr this summer by instead using their time to “air grievances.”

The House Judiciary Committee had asked that Eric S. Dreiband, the head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, appear this month to discuss the division, and that Michael Carvajal, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, and Donald Washington, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service, appear for an oversight hearing on Oct. 1.

The department said in a letter to Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the committee, that Mr. Barr had been advised that he could be asked about police misconduct, voting rights, the coronavirus and federal prisons, and the civil unrest this spring and summer.

He appeared before the committee in July prepared to discuss those issues, the department said, but Democrats were more interested in “scolding and insulting” him.

“Unfortunately, when given the opportunity to obtain information from the head of the Department of Justice about precisely these matters, many committee members chose instead to use their allotted time to air grievances,” the department wrote in the letter.

“Having squandered its opportunity to conduct a meaningful oversight hearing with the attorney general, it remains unclear how further public spectacles with other department officials would now — a mere 14 legislative days since the attorney general’s hearing — advance the committee’s legitimate oversight efforts,” the department said.

A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hearing with Mr. Barr was particularly contentious, with Democrats often refusing to let the attorney general respond to their questions or their accusations. The Democrats, in turn, were angered as Mr. Barr ignored questions about his rationale or actions, or quibbled over details.

Democrats and their allies argued after the hearing that Mr. Barr would not have answered their questions in good faith had they let him respond, and that he would have filibustered and wasted the time. Better, they said, to use the time to air their grievances.

The department argued on Monday that this did “preciously little to advance any legitimate interest” because the committee as a result of this tactic learned no new information.

“When the attorney general tried to address the committee’s questions, he was interrupted and silenced in excess of 70 times,” the department said in its letter. “One member interrupted him and admitted, ‘Well, I don’t want you to tell your story.’”

While the department was unwilling to let Mr. Dreiband, Mr. Carvajal or Mr. Washington testify this fall, it said it would share information and work to schedule future hearings if the committee committed to conducting itself in “an appropriate and productive manner.”

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Democrats threaten to impeach William Barr over John Durham Russia probe

Democrats are turning up the heat on William Barr, accusing the attorney general of trying to influence the November presidential election and threatening impeachment after he gave a fiery speech last week lambasting career federal prosecutors.

The chairs of four House committees urged the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to open an “emergency” investigation into whether Mr. Barr is using U.S. Attorney John Durham’s Russia probe as part of an effort to taint the presidential election.

In a letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the four lawmakers said Mr. Barr’s comments and actions could be damaging “to public confidence in the integrity of the DOJ and our democratic process.”

“Attorney General Barr has signaled repeatedly that he is likely to allow DOJ to take prosecutorial actions, make public disclosures, and even issue reports before the presidential election in November,” the lawmakers wrote. “Such actions clearly appear intended to benefit President Trump politically.”

The letter arrived the same day Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, authored a scathing op-ed calling for Mr. Barr’s impeachment and a day after Democratic senators pleaded for Mr. Horowitz to intervene.

A Justice Department spokeswoman and a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office declined to comment.

Democrats were rankled by Mr. Barr’s speech marking Constitution Day last week at Hillsdale College, a school with conservative ties.

Mr. Barr accused his Justice Department prosecutors of acting as “headhunters.” He also compared them to preschoolers, decried them as part of the “permanent bureaucracy” and suggested they should be reined in by politically appointed leaders.

The next day, the Democrats launched a three-pronged assault on Mr. Barr. They targeted the Durham probe in particular.

The Durham probe has been digging into the origins of the Russia collusion probe since May 2019 and veered into a criminal investigation five months later. Democrats now worry that Mr. Durham’s team is cooking up an “October surprise” for the presidential race.

Mr. Barr’s political opponents say his public comments about the investigation could violate Justice Department policy if Mr. Durham releases a report or brings indictment within 60 days of Election Day.

Mr. Barr in 2018 authored a report saying politically charged prosecutorial and law enforcement actions must be avoided within 60 to 90 days of Election Day, but Democrats contend Mr. Barr has changed his mind. They cite an interview the attorney general had earlier this year with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

“You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category,” he said in the interview.

Democrats fear Mr. Barr will try to skirt Justice Department rules by having Mr. Durham issue a report instead of filing criminal charges.

“With potentially devastating consequences for our democracy, Attorney General Barr appears to have changed his position and

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White House asked DOJ to defend Trump in defamation case, Barr says

The White House asked the Justice Department to take over the defense of President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed by a woman who has accused Trump of sexual assault in the 1990s, Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday.



a man wearing a suit and tie: US President Donald Trump (R) and US Attorney General William Barr step off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on September 1, 2020.


© MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (R) and US Attorney General William Barr step off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on September 1, 2020.

Because Trump addressed and denied the accusations by E. Jean Carroll while serving as president, Barr said, the federal government is allowed to step in.

The attorney general also said politics is to blame for the reaction to the Justice Department paying for Trump’s defense and possibly killing the lawsuit.

“This was a normal application of the law. The law is clear. It is done frequently. And the little tempest that’s going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live,” Barr said in a news conference in Chicago.

“Officials who are elected and answer press questions while they’re in office, even if those questions relate to their personal activity, and could bear upon their personal fitness, is in fact in the course of federal employment, and can be therefore certified under the Westfall Act,” Barr said.

Carroll, a veteran columnist for Elle Magazine, said Trump falsely called her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault.

“President Trump knows that I told the truth when I said that he had sexually assaulted me in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman. He also knows that he was lying when he said that he had never met me before and that I ‘wasn’t his type,'” Carroll said in a statement Tuesday.

Carroll’s lawyers have not yet responded in court to the motion to replace Trump’s private lawyers.

Barr said the White House followed the proper course of action to request the Justice Department’s intervention.

“The process involves the employing agency, which in the case of a president has been the White House, sending in a memorandum requesting certification,” Barr said. “That process was followed in this particular case.”

The White House did not confirm Barr’s statement, but in a statement said the Justice Department’s move “adheres to the plain language and intent of the Statute which the courts have confirmed applies when elected officials, such as members of Congress, respond to press inquiries including with respect to personal matters.”

CNN legal analyst and University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck said Barr’s comments are misleading when it comes to the President.

“Yes, DOJ ‘frequently’ seeks to take over tort claims against federal employees,” Vladeck said. “But there’s no ‘frequent’ history of doing so when the defendant is the President — or of waiting as long as DOJ did here to invoke the statute.”

The lawsuit was filed in November, and a New York judge last month ruled that the lawsuit could proceed against Trump. Carroll is also seeking to require Trump provide

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White House Asked Justice Dept. to Take Over Defamation Suit Against Trump, Barr Says

WASHINGTON — The White House asked the Justice Department to replace President Trump’s private lawyers to defend against a woman’s accusations that he defamed her last year in denying her claim that he sexually assaulted her a quarter-century ago, Attorney General William P. Barr said on Wednesday.

The Justice Department’s intervention in the lawsuit means that taxpayer money will be used to defend the president, and it threatens the continued viability of the case of the plaintiff, the author E. Jean Carroll.

Mr. Barr defended the decision to intervene, arguing that it was routine for the department to take over lawsuits against federal officials — substituting the government as the defendant.

“This was a normal application of the law,” Mr. Barr said during a news conference in Chicago. “The law is clear. It is done frequently. And the little tempest that is going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live.”

Ms. Carroll’s lawsuit has been reassigned from a New York State court to a Federal District Court judge in New York, Lewis A. Kaplan. If he signs off on the department’s certification that it meets the standards to substitute the government as the defendant, he could dismiss the lawsuit because the government has sovereign immunity and cannot be sued for defamation.

Mr. Barr’s public comments were his first since the Justice Department’s abrupt intervention a day earlier in the lawsuit brought by Ms. Carroll last November.

Mr. Barr said the department was responding to a memorandum from the White House requesting that it take over the case under a law called the Westfall Act, arguing that Mr. Trump had acted in his official capacity as president when he denied Ms. Carroll’s accusation that he had sexually assaulted her years ago in a department store dressing room.

Mr. Trump called Ms. Carroll a liar and said he did not know her, even though the two had been photographed together at a party in 1987 with Ms. Carroll’s former husband. He also said she was “not my type.” She then sued him for making defamatory statements about her.

The Carroll case was at a delicate moment for the president when the Justice Department intervened. Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers had tried to put the lawsuit on hold, but a judge ruled last month that it could proceed. That ruling had also seemingly cleared a path for Ms. Carroll’s legal team to pursue its request that Mr. Trump provide a DNA sample to determine whether his genetic material is on a dress she was wearing at the time of the encounter.

The department’s motion to take control of the case came as Mr. Trump’s private lawyers were facing a deadline to appeal an order compelling a deposition and a DNA sample.

In portraying the Justice Department’s intervention this week as unremarkable, Mr. Barr did not explain why the administration had waited more than 10 months to step in.

The move to portray the case as centering on

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