Attorney General William Barr gave a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday evening with Fox News, in which condemned the Russia investigation, blamed the media for demonizing hydroxychloroquine, and criticized social distancing measures as “draconian.” Many attorneys and former Justice Department officials reacted by saying it was clear the nation’s top law enforcement official has eliminated any remaining semblance of objectivity.
The Russia Investigation
Contradicting the DOJ Inspector General’s (IG) report on the Russia investigation, Barr claimed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election began “without any basis” and was meant to “sabotage the presidency” of Donald Trump.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, while DOJ IG Michael Horowitz detailed and exposed widespread problems with the FBI’s FISA application process, he ultimately concluded that the bureau had sufficient grounds to open an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia–thereby debunking years of conspiracy theories that the investigation was prompted by anti-Trump political bias.
“AG Barr told Fox News Russia investigation began without any basis,” University of Michigan law professor and former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade wrote. “That is an objective lie. IG found the investigation was properly predicated. This is how disinformation spreads. We need to call it out.”
AG Barr told Fox News Russia investigation began without any basis. That is an objective lie. IG found the investigation was properly predicated. This is how disinformation spreads. We need to call it out. https://t.co/KSlF7t5Ddy
— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) April 9, 2020
Anti-Trump former federal prosecutor Richard Signorelli said Barr was “corruptly betraying” the country to favor the president, calling his actions “mind boggling.”
Mind boggling. Barr is corruptly betraying our country and the Constitution in service to a criminal/incompetent/"100% insane" @realDonaldTrump , and I state this as someone who served in the DOJ as an Assistant U.S. Attorney during Barr's first stint as AG. https://t.co/K2nzQPaufT
— Richard Signorelli (@richsignorelli) April 9, 2020
Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler noted that, despite his persistent pushback against the Russia investigation, Barr has yet to produce any evidence to back his conspiracy theories.
Note that Barr's broadside comes while DC Courts — including the review of DOJ's decisions on releasing underlying records in Mueller probe — are on hold.
Thus far, the record shows there was a coordinated story to lie abt Trump's efforts to undermine sanctions on Russia.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) April 9, 2020
Today Barr publicly called the Mueller investigation “one of the greatest travesties in American history.”
DOJ officials aren’t supposed to publicly announce that they’ve already made their minds up about a subject they’re investigating. https://t.co/SvLd8ygLg3
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) April 9, 2020
Barr also said it was “disappointing” that media was waging “jihad” against hydroxychloroquine–a decades-old anti-malaria drug which has not been approved by the FDA for treating COVID-19 and is unproven to work against coronavirus. There is anecdotal evidence of success in treating the virus. Barr claimed the media’s skepticism with the treatment – which has serious side effects that could be deadly – was part of a “jihad” to discredit the drug because of the president’s support.
“Before the president said anything about it, there was fair and balanced coverage of this very promising drug,” Barr said. “The fact that it had such a long track record, that the risks were pretty well known, and as soon as he said something positive about it, the media has been on a jihad to discredit the drug. It’s quite strange.”
Many attorneys pointed out that Barr, who has no formal medical training, should not be weighing in on the efficacy of coronavirus treatments.
“Is this Deep Thoughts on COVID with Bill Barr? Why do we care what he thinks about something that is not in his lane, either by profession or position???” commented attorney, former FBI special agent and CNN analyst Asha Rangappa.
Is this Deep Thoughts on COVID with Bill Barr? Why do we care what he thinks about something that is not in his lane, either by profession or position??? https://t.co/GlwgkUUdvB
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) April 9, 2020
Attorney and Daily Beast contributor David Lurie remarked that “soon, we will be hearing that [Dr. Anthony] Fauci is a secret Islamist.”
Barr says there is a "jihad" against Hydroxychloroquine. Soon, we will be hearing that Fauci is a secret Islamist. https://t.co/rNk2kkPA2D
— davidrlurie (@davidrlurie) April 9, 2020
Trump as a ‘Statesman’ and Social Distancing as ‘Draconian’
Barr also complimented the president as being “statesmanlike” in dealing with Democratic governors and members of Congress, before slamming social distancing measures as “draconian.” Barr said that people should be allowed to “adapt” instead of being told to “go home and hide under their bed.”
“Barr is adding to his title of Most Dangerous Trump Cabinet Member,” former MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst and former federal prosecutor and Westchester County DA candidate Mimi Rocah wrote. “He’s now giving reckless advice on health policy (not part of the AG’s job or expertise) in addition to more explicitly espousing political conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia Investigation.”
Barr is adding to his title of Most Dangerous Trump Cabinet Member. He’s now giving reckless advice on health policy (not part of the AG’s job or expertise) in addition to more explicitly espousing political conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia Investigation. https://t.co/5qqtmtdhxz
— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) April 9, 2020
That was echoed by another former federal prosecutor in CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.
“AG William Barr is a disgrace, a political hack with zero credibility who constantly embarrasses himself and the Justice Department,” he wrote. “His comments sound like they’re from a campaign spokesperson, not the nation’s top law enforcement official.”
AG William Barr is a disgrace, a political hack with zero credibility who constantly embarrasses himself and the Justice Department.
His comments sound like they're from a campaign spokesperson, not the nation's top law enforcement official.
For example: (1/3) https://t.co/HxGohon3rh
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) April 9, 2020
[image via Fox News screngrab]
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