Alliance for Justice’s 2020 report, William Barr: Eroding Justice, catalogues numerous ways in which Attorney General William Barr has undermined the independence of the Department of Justice (“DOJ” or “the Department”) since his confirmation and eroded critical constitutional rights and legal protections.
Attorneys general are political actors who require a president’s trust and confidence in order to effectively perform their duties. However, as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer overseeing the world’s “largest law office,” the attorney general must ensure that our nation’s laws are administered fully and fairly. By this standard, Barr’s tenure as President Donald Trump’s attorney general has been an abject failure. Barr, who in public remarks has made clear he is a hyper-partisan, has used the power of his office to act as Trump’s personal attorney; to reward Trump’s political donors, supporters, and friends; to punish Trump’s perceived enemies; and to subvert Justice Department enforcement of critical laws to advance Trump’s political agenda.
Part I of this report highlights the significant ways in which Barr has degraded the independence of the Justice Department and the rule of law to serve and protect Donald Trump’s illegality and corruption.
Many of the issues highlighted have, deservedly, received widespread attention and condemnation. Barr’s false and misleading summary of the conclusions of the Mueller Report; his decision to launch a criminal investigation into the probe of Russian interference with the 2016 election; his special intake procedures for information on Trump’s political opponent from Rudy Giuliani; his decision to dismiss charges against Michael Flynn; his decision to rescind the sentencing recommendation for Trump’s friend Roger Stone as being unfairly harsh; and his efforts to remove the chief prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, the official in charge of several investigations into Trump’s inner circle, are just a few examples of the actions that have dominated headlines this year. However, many of Barr’s transgressions have not received the attention they deserve.
Part II of this report focuses on another key part of Barr’s tenure: the policy and enforcement decisions his Department has made to turn back the clock on critical rights and legal protections. Barr has refused to defend acts of Congress, including, most notably, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), risking access to quality health care for millions. He has attacked efforts by state and local officials to protect the health of the public during the pandemic. He has dramatically scaled back civil rights enforcement at the Justice Department, including voting rights. He derailed efforts to ensure constitutional policing and led an assault on Americans fighting for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd; and he has aggressively fought to curtail LGBTQ rights. He has attacked reproductive freedom; exploited DOJ’s position as the superintendent of our nation’s immigration courts to advance Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda; and aided Trump’s assault on clean air and clean water. Moreover, Barr has been a central figure in eroding protections for consumers.
This report is an effort to compile illustrative egregious actions Barr has taken. It provides a damning portrait of an attorney general whose lasting legacy will be the degradation of the rule of law and irreparable harm to the American justice system.
Thousands of former DOJ officials and prosecutors and scores of others have called for William Barr’s resignation in recent months. Proper oversight and accountability are essential. By compiling many of Barr’s untoward actions, AFJ hopes this report will aid all those who fight daily for the cause of justice and the rule of law so that dignity can be restored to the Justice Department.