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Lawyers Call for Barr’s Resignation: COVID-19 Is a Danger to Our Health and Economy, Barr Is a Danger to Democracy

A self-styled non-partisan group of lawyers and former judges continued a tradition of sorts on Tuesday by calling for Attorney General William Barr’s resignation.

Lawyers Defending American Democracy (LDAD), a group of 300 attorneys, former judges, state and federal prosecutors, penned an open letter to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is a danger to Americans’ health and the economy, but that Barr is a danger to democracy.

“We are attorneys from across the United States united in calling for the resignation of Attorney General William Barr. We have taken our oaths to support the Constitution of the United States and to faithfully discharge our duties as officers of the courts,” the undersigned said. “We write in support of the 2000+ U.S. Department of Justice alumni and our colleagues of the Boston Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association concerned about the efforts of Attorney General Barr and President Donald Trump to interfere with the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. Barr’s behavior, by rewarding the President’s friend and ally, undermines both the appearance of impartial justice and impartial justice itself, central to our system of government.”

“More broadly, Barr’s concept of an imperial executive is antithetical to fundamental principles of American constitutional democracy. His empowering the President with these radical, anti-democratic ideas makes him unfit to be the Attorney General of the United States,” the open letter continued. “We are a liberal democratic nation. We are governed by the ‘rule of law,’ not the ‘law of the ruler.'”

The press release said that this open letter was still necessary even as America grapples with a crisis of unprecedented scope:

A congressional hearing investigating Attorney General Barr’s conduct has been postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of COVID-19. While acknowledging the nation’s necessary focus on the virus, [LDAD co-founder Scott] Harshbarger urges the public spotlight also be kept on Attorney General Barr.

It is true that the House Judiciary Committee on Monday postponed Barr’s March 31 oversight hearing until further notice. That hearing was meant to address Barr’s decision-making in the Roger Stone case, and more. The Democratic-led Committee sent a letter to Barr on Feb. 28, formally requesting “information concerning improper political interference” by President Donald Trump and others “in enforcement matters handled” by the DOJ.

The Committee also referenced the 2,000-plus DOJ alumni who called for Barr’s resignation in the wake of the Stone debacle.

“The abandonment of these longstanding practices has motivated more than 2,000 former [DOJ employees—public servants of both parties, including but not limited to a former Deputy Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush to call for your resignation,” the Committee’s letter said. “These circumstances are deeply troubling.”

The hearing (whenever it happens) will focus on the DOJ’s controversial reversal on Stone’s sentencing recommendation, the DOJ’s shift on Michael Flynn’s sentencing recommendation, the DOJ’s channel for receiving and evaluating Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine dirt, and the John Durham probe, among other things.

LADA said that there’s no question that Barr’s support of an “imperial executive” has harmed institutions.

“Since the Watergate scandal, there has been a bright line insulating the Department of Justice from politically motivated decision-making. Barr’s intervention in the Stone prosecution raises red flags that that line has been crossed,” the group said. “If we fail to make our voices heard now, we will have only ourselves to blame. Given the danger to our constitutional democracy posed by Attorney General Barr’s radical legal views and harmful behavior, we ask him to resign his office now.”

Barr appeared alongside President Trump at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Monday night. The Attorney General vowed to prosecute those hoarding (or price gouging) essential items (like surgical masks and hand sanitizer) during the pandemic.

LDAD Barr letter by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.