Attorney General William Barr has been named in a formal complaint with both the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
Citing his recent and by now well-documented intervention into the DOJ decision-making process vis-à-vis sentencing recommendations in the Roger Stone case as just one of many instances in which the attorney general has interfered in an ongoing process, the 10-page complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) accuses Barr of violating several Justice Department rules, guidelines and procedures.
Addressed to OPR Acting Director and Chief Counsel Jeffrey Ragsdale and OIG Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the filing “respectfully requests” that both oversight agencies “investigate public statements” made by Barr “that are prejudicial to persons who are the focus of” various pending DOJ cases, controversies and investigations because such comments ”appear to violate rules intended to protect due process and privacy interests afforded to persons under investigation.”
CREW’s complaint includes a laundry list of allegedly untoward and unethical behavior committed by the 77th and 85th attorney general—beginning with the ongoing quis custodiet ipsos custodes Russiagate meta-investigation headed by onetime CIA torture whitewasher and current U.S. Attorney John Durham, whose criminal probe focuses on bad behavior by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
“In response to a report Inspector General Michael Horowitz recently issued about the FBI’s Russia investigation, Attorney General Barr strongly criticized the conduct of the FBI and its employees, asserting, among other things, that the investigation was ‘completely baseless,’ lacked ‘sufficient predication,’ and led to ‘very serious’ and ‘gross abuses,’” CREW notes. “DOJ’s rules prohibit its employees from making any statement that reasonably could have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding or from expressing any opinion as to a defendant’s guilt. Attorney General Barr’s comments appear to violate those rules and to undermine the independence and integrity of the Durham Investigation.”
The filing goes on at length:
Attorney General Barr’s prejudicial statements further appear to be part of a pattern of conduct…Barr similarly made public statements indicating he has prejudged the outcome of DOJ investigations into the origins of the Russia investigation. CREW has also raised questions about Attorney General Barr’s impartiality in matters pertaining to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald J. Trump, in part because of his apparent attempt to skew public opinion in favor of President Trump, and [CREW] has questioned the propriety of Attorney General Barr’s participation in DOJ matters arising from a whistleblower complaint alleging that President Trump sought political favors from a foreign government for his political benefit. Further indicating a pattern of prejudicial conduct, Attorney General Barr also has “take[n] control of legal matters of persona interest” to President Trump, which has resulted in Attorney General Barr reducing the sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s long-time associate, Roger Stone.
“Barr also has opened a backdoor channel for President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to send damaging information directly to DOJ about one of President Trump’s political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden,” the smorgasbord complaint continues before laying out each agency’s legal authority for conducting the requested oversight investigation into Barr.
“Attorney General Barr’s statements about the conduct of persons who are the subject of an ongoing DOJ investigation appear to violate DOJ policies intended to protect due process and privacy interests, as well as ethics principles intended to preserve and protect the independence and integrity of DOJ prosecutions,” the complaint said. “By using inflammatory and conclusory language and making these comments in a press statement and in a high-profile television interview, Attorney General Barr increased their prejudicial impact and elevated the seriousness of his misconduct.”
“Since the beginning of his tenure at the Department of Justice, Attorney General Barr has operated more as the president’s personal attorney than as the country’s chief law enforcement officer,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder asserted in a press release. “Throughout the Durham investigation, Barr’s inflammatory language and disparaging comments have improperly sewn mistrust and doubt about the integrity of the Mueller investigation and may have tainted the fairness of the investigation.”
The filing concludes with a dire description of Barr’s impact on the public perception of the Department of Justice:
As the head of our nation’s principal law enforcement agency, Attorney General Barr’s conduct not only undermines the independence and integrity of the Durham Investigation, but also irreparably harms public confidence in DOJ’s ability to carry out prosecutions independently, and with the integrity and professional standards expected of our nation’s principal law enforcement agency.
Read the full complaint below:
[image via screengrab/PBS]