Washington, July 28, 2020 — The House of Representatives should open a formal impeachment inquiry into Attorney General Bill Barr, according to a report published today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) laying out in detail the factual and legal basis for that impeachment process. The report, which focuses on whether Barr abused the power of his position at the Department of Justice, comes ahead of his scheduled appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.
CREW’s report expands on its previous calls for Congress to open an impeachment inquiry and to assess whether Barr used his power unlawfully to protect President Trump from investigations into his wrongdoing and that of his allies and to improperly suppress peaceful protesters.
“Under Barr’s leadership, the Department of Justice has abandoned its role as the guardian and keeper of the law and its institutional commitment to administering the law free from favor, pressure, and politics,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “By abandoning any semblance of impartiality and instead using the department to protect the president and his interests, Barr has set a dangerous precedent for future Attorney Generals to emulate. An impeachment inquiry is the only way to put an end to the dangerous path we are on.”
Since being sworn in as Attorney General, Barr has made several decisions that run counter to DOJ precedent and threaten the department’s ability to carry out fair and impartial justice. In several of these instances, Barr took deliberate actions to misconstrue information, sow discord among the American people, and punish elected and appointed officials whose actions posed a legal threat to the president and his allies. Specifically, CREW’s report urges Congress to focus the an impeachment inquiry in four key areas:
- Barr’s role in subverting the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and of President Trump for obstruction of justice. Despite being a vocal critic of the Special Counsel investigation, Barr failed to recuse himself from the investigation, and later misrepresented the Special Counsel’s findings by issuing his own inaccurate summary of the Special Counsel’s report. Barr tasked John Durham, the United States Attorney for Connecticut, with examining the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation, with the intent of undermining the Special Counsel’s report and sowing discord among the American people;
- How he may have interfered with the lawful functions of the DOJ by overturning the actions of career prosecutors in the cases of Roger Stone Jr. and Michael Flynn and by firing United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman. Barr dismissed the sentencing recommendations from career prosecutors, instead withdrawing and replacing the government’s recommended sentence for Roger Stone and moving to dismiss the charges against Michael Flynn. Barr later announced the resignation of Berman, though Berman had not, in fact, resigned and quickly issued a statement denying that he was leaving. The following day, President Trump dismissed Berman. Berman’s ouster came after his office had conducted high-profile criminal investigations of individuals associated with President Trump;
- How Barr potentially abused and exceeded the powers of the Attorney General to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens after he ordered federal law enforcement to forcibly remove peaceful protesters assembled outside the White House following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. White House and DOJ officials confirmed that Barr ordered the park be cleared, though Barr himself denied the charges. The Constitution and several federal statutes prohibit the government from using force to curtail peaceful protests. Congress should also inquire into whether Barr exceeded his authority by issuing commands to components of the federal government that are committed to the jurisdiction of other departments; and
- His continued obstruction of lawful investigations of the United States House of Representatives. Barr’s directing DOJ to fail to comply with Congress’s investigation of the politically motivated addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census and his attempts to suppress an intelligence community whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s abuses of power are abuses that undermine efforts to hold him and others in the administration accountable for their actions.
“In order to fully restore the Justice Department’s impartiality and independence, Congress must confront Barr’s abuses of power,” said Bookbinder. “Barr has proven himself unfit to fulfill the duties he swore to uphold, and only by considering his impeachment can Congress begin to undo the damage he has done to our democratic system.”
In May, CREW submitted a petition with more than 103,000 names to the DOJ calling on Barr to resign from his post in light of his troubling and inappropriately political behavior as Attorney General. CREW has also filed numerous FOIA requests and related lawsuits to shine a light on Barr’s conduct, though in many of these cases, DOJ is withholding relevant records, thereby avoiding public scrutiny of Barr’s actions.
Click here to view the report.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org