The former Deputy Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush on Monday penned an op-ed in The Atlantic calling for the resignation of William Barr, saying Barr’s “long-held belief in the need for a virtually autocratic executive” clearly illustrates his “unfitness for office.” The op-ed was published one day after more than 1,100 former DOJ officials (cable news legal analysts included) signed on to an open letter also calling for Barr’s resignation.
Donald Ayer, who served as Deputy AG and Principal Deputy Solicitor General under Bush I, wrote that in the last week Barr has proven that he is more of a personal advocate for President Donald Trump than a representative of justice for the American people.
“The evenhanded conduct of the prosecutions of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn by experienced Department of Justice attorneys have been disrupted at the 11th hour by the attorney general’s efforts to soften the consequences for the president’s associates,” Ayer wrote. “More generally, it appears that Barr has recently identified a group of lawyers who he trusts and put them in place to oversee and second-guess the work of the department’s career attorneys on a broader range of cases. And there is no comfort from any of this in Barr’s recent protests about the president’s tweeting. He in no way suggested he was changing course, only that it is hard appear independent when the president is publicly calling for him to follow the path he is on.”
According to Ayer, Barr’s devolution into a presidential protector was inevitable in light of his full-throated belief in a unitary executive theory that essentially places the president above the law, claiming Barr’s tenure has been geared towards destroying the DOJ safeguards built in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal–a pursuit he says is definitively “un-American” in nature.
“Barr’s frontal attack on this system begins with an assault on [post-Watergate AG Edward] Levi’s central premise, that ours must be a ‘government of laws and not men,’ in which no person is above the law,” Ayer wrote. “Even more emphatically, though, Barr has brought with him to the department an extraordinary belief in the need for an all-powerful president that is flatly irreconcilable with Levi’s vision, which restored the Department of Justice to honor and integrity in the mid-’70s. Perhaps most disturbingly, Barr contends that it is virtually impossible for a corrupt president to be held to account by the Department of Justice, or by any independent counsel that it or Congress might appoint.”
Ayer said that Barr should resign or be impeached, a framing that we have seen before.
“Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go,” Ayer concluded. “It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.”
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]