October 1, 2020 – Given a mounting pile of evidence, more than 1,600 alumni of the Justice Department issued a statement on Thursday warning that Attorney General William Barr “intends to use the DOJ’s vast law enforcement powers to undermine our most fundamental democratic value: free and fair elections,” in the lead-up to November 3.
The former DOJ lawyers cite Barr’s false statements about the security of mail-in voting and hone in on speculation about the Durham investigation, given its prominence, appearances of politicization, and speculation about the public release of its findings and related prosecutorial actions in the coming weeks.
“There are serious questions about whether there is a legitimate basis for the Durham investigation. It has been repeatedly politicized and tainted by President Trump, and both the DOJ’s Inspector General and the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have concluded that the Russian interference investigation was wholly appropriate and methodologically sound,” the alumni write. “But even if there is a legitimate predicate for the Durham investigation, there is clearly no justification for taking public action on it in such close proximity to the November election. Such a blatant politicization and abuse of federal law enforcement power risks immense and lasting harm to our democracy and to the integrity and reputation of the DOJ.”
The signatories focus on the Department’s unwritten “60-Day Rule,” which “creates a presumption that DOJ personnel should not take public steps or make public statements about a criminal investigation in the period immediately before an election if doing so could influence the vote.” Attorney General Barr is familiar with this rule — as the statement reads, Barr endorsed it during his confirmation hearing for his current position, explaining that the rule exists because “the incumbent party has their hands on … the levers of the law enforcement apparatus of the country, and you do not want it used against the opposing political party.”
Protect Democracy prepared a memo for interested parties that contextualizes the Durham investigation in light of the facts that multiple oversight bodies, including the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, did not find an improper predicate for the 2016 Russia investigation; and that the investigation itself has been tainted repeatedly by political interference from President Trump and improper comments presuming guilty made by Trump and Attorney General Barr. That document can be found here.
Additionally, Protect Democracy’s Kristy Parker and Erica Newland, both DOJ alumni, wrote a two-part series about politically motivated prosecutions and how current DOJ personnel should respond in the event they’re asked to participate in them. Part one is here, and part two is here.