The New York City Bar Association has called on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to stand down and recuse himself from any further review by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of issues related to the Trump Administration’s massive and snowballing Ukraine scandal.
In a statement, the organization blasted Barr’s continued presence.
The DOJ “has a unique role in safeguarding the rule of law under the Constitution,” the statement’s summary begins. “Barr has undermined that role,” by failing to recuse himself from the Ukraine controversy.
The statement continued in blistering terms:
To help remedy that failure, the New York City Bar Association urges that Mr. Barr recuse himself from any ongoing or future review by DOJ of Ukraine-related issues in which Mr. Barr is allegedly involved. If he fails to do so, he should resign or, failing that, be subject to sanctions, including possible removal, by Congress.
Barr was mentioned in the intelligence community whistleblower report about the July 25 phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wherein Trump appeared to precondition U.S. aid to the Ukraine on whether or not the former Soviet satellite would reopen a long-shuttered corruption investigation into Burisma, a natural gas company that previously employed Joe Biden‘s son, Hunter Biden.
An official memorandum of that phone call confirmed Trump directed Zelensky to contact Barr and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani as point persons for seeing that investigation through.
The bar association’s statement summed up those issues:
As White House records made clear, the President told his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, that Mr. Barr “would be in touch with him” to follow up on the President’s requests. The whistleblower found this telephone call to be of “urgent concern” because of the President’s apparent intermingling of U.S. foreign policy interests with his personal political interests in apparent violation of U.S. law.
“Our focus here is not on the legality of the President’s actions or even on the merits of the whistleblower’s complaint, which the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General found to be ‘credible,'” the statement continued. “Nor do we take a position at this time on whether DOJ’s review of this action was justified.”
Barr has previously been criticized for the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel keeping the whistleblower complaint under lock-and-key and for the controversial decision that Trump’s Ukrainian ask was not a violation of campaign finance law–though Barr himself apparently did not make the “final call” on the campaign finance referral.
Those ancillary issues, however, are not of particular interest to the bar association vis-à-vis the concept of recusal.
“We do, however, believe it was, and is, incumbent on the Attorney General to recuse himself from any participation, direct or indirect, in DOJ’s review of the whistleblower complaint,” the statement says. “Regardless of whether Mr. Barr was in fact aware of or part of the President’s plans, either before, at the time of, or after the July 25, 2019 telephone call, it is clear that Mr. Barr was obligated to recuse himself from any involvement in DOJ’s review of either the whistleblower complaint or the substance of the President’s actions once the President offered Mr. Barr’s services to President Zelensky.”
The statement is signed by New York City Bar Association President Roger Juan Maldonado and the organization’s Task Force on the Rule of Law Chair Stephen L. Kass.
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]