Five Myths About Bill Barr

Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on a growing mythology building around the nomination of Bill Barr for Attorney General of the United States. One of the most prominent is that Barr was intentionally evasive about releasing any report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Members of both parties have overwhelmingly called for the release of the report. However, Democratic members pushed Barr to promise to release the entire report before he actually reads it.

Barr said repeatedly that he believed that not only the completion of the Special Counsel investigation but the release of the information was in the public interest.  Barr was repeating the standard from the regulation, which is precisely what he should do.  That standard says that the Attorney General has discretion to conclude that “these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.” What the Democratic senators were demanding would have been an unethical pledge to release a report without knowing its contents.  Federal law prevents the disclosure of a myriad of different types of material from Grand jury (or Rule 6(e)) material to classified material to material covered in privacy or confidentiality laws as well as possible privileged material.  After pushing him on whether he would act ethically, it was a curious request for a facially unethical and unprofessional pledge.
Here is what Barr said:

“I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel’s work . . .For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political or other improper interests influence my decision.”

Here is the column:

In the classic Western film, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” Ranse Stoddard discloses to a newspaper editor that the legend about his shooting notorious gunman Liberty Valance was wrong. After hearing the true story of the demise of Valance and of Stoddard missing him entirely in their famous gunfight, Maxwell Scott rips up the account and says, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Politics can operate on the same flawed premise, as shown in the debate over the confirmation of William Barr to be the next United States attorney general. Barr has been given the treatment in blogs and articles, creating a menacing image of a lawyer fundamentally opposed to the Russia investigation and blindly beholden to the interests of President Trump.

I testified Wednesday in favor of his confirmation before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I have known Barr for many years and represented him, along with other former attorneys general, during the Bill Clintonimpeachment period. He is one of the best lawyers I have ever known, as well as one of the most educated and circumspect. For that reason, I have been taken aback by many false accounts of his views and background.

People are free to disagree with his view of executive power or with his tough on crime approach. However, critics seems to be more interested in reconstructing his record than in recognizing it. Even the most direct answers seem to get distorted. For example, when asked if he would make public any report by special counsel Robert Mueller, Barr said he believes that the public needs to see as much of the record as possible and would seek to release the report to the fullest extent allowed by law.

That is the most that any nominee for attorney general can ethically say without seeing the report, which could contain grand jury or privileged information that Barr would be required to redact. Yet, that response is now being portrayed as sinister and equivocating. It would have been unethical and unprofessional for Barr to promise anything more than that during his Senate hearing. Thus, before legend becomes fact, it would be useful to address five common myths floating in the public about him.

Myth 1: Barr believes the president of the United States is above the law.

Before this confirmation hearing this week, Senator Richard Blumenthal said that a 2018 memorandum that Barr wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is “deeply worrisome because in effect he says the president is above the law.” Many critics have agreed. That is not what the memorandum says or even suggests. Indeed, it explicitly states the opposite. Barr has repeatedly stated that a president can be charged with criminal conduct in office. Moreover, even if presidential misconduct does not fall under the obstruction provision, he has repeatedly stated that such acts can be criminal under other provisions, constitute an abuse of power, and violate the presidential duty to faithfully execute the laws.

Myth 2: Barr believes the president cannot be charged with obstruction.

Perhaps the most common misrepresentation I have seen is that Barr maintains that a sitting president cannot be charged with obstruction of justice. That is indeed entirely untrue, as his memorandum expressly states. Barr wrote, “Obviously, the president and any other official can commit obstruction in this classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth finding function,” adding, “If a president knowingly destroys or alters evidence, suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony, or commits any act deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence, then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction.”

Barr has repeatedly and expressly disagreed with the White House legal team that a sitting president cannot be charged with obstruction of justice as a constitutional matter. He told the Senate, “If a president, acting with the requisite intent, engages in the kind of evidence impairment the statute prohibits, regardless whether it involves the exercise of his or her constitutional powers or not, then a president commits obstruction of justice under the statute. It is as simple as that.”

Myth 3: Barr speculated on possible use of obstruction against Trump.

Critics have characterized the premise of his memorandum as “bizarre” or “strange” and described it as “based entirely on made up facts.” Barr has been chastised for suggesting he that knows the “legal theory” of Mueller, and that he understands the “fact pattern” Mueller is investigating. The problem, however, is that Barr says precisely the opposite. At the outset of his memorandum, Barr says he is “in the dark about many facts” and was addressing only what is a commonly known focus of the investigation, which is the firing of FBI Director James Comey. We know that because it was one of the key factors behind the appointment of a special counsel. On his first day of testimony, various senators assumed the same fact.

Indeed, there are hundreds of articles on the obstruction issue addressed by Barr. One of his most vocal critics on this point wrote a lengthy piece on the same issue last year. He then proceeded, within days of his column criticizing Barr, to write another column exploring the hitherto “strange” focus of an obstruction case. Another critic wrote a New York Times column blasting Barr for the bizarre speculation on the bringing of an obstruction claim yet, last year, wrote another New York Times column exploring precisely that issue. What would be “bizarre” is a denial that Mueller has looked at the firing of Comey as a possible act of obstruction.

Myth 4: Barr thinks an attorney general must take orders from the president on investigation and prosecutions.

Critics have noted Barr stated, “The Constitution itself places no limit on the president’s authority to act on matters which concern him or his own conduct. On the contrary, the Constitution’s grant of law enforcement power to the president is plenary.” That is demonstrably true, as the Constitution does not contain any such limits. That does not mean executive actions taken for personal reasons would be lawful, or that the attorney general must carry out presidential orders on investigations.

Indeed, Barr has discussed how a president can be charged with criminal conduct and how the attorney general has a responsibility to protect the Justice Department from political influence. He stated that interference from a president could constitute not just obstruction but other crimes, and would presumably be an abuse of power and a violation of the duty to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. Barr has said that, while a president can raise certain issues or cases to the Justice Department, the attorney general makes his or her own decisions on how to prosecute. An Attorney General takes not one but two oaths: first as a lawyer to act ethically and second as a government lawyer to uphold the Constitution. Barr has said that Justice Department officials acted appropriately in resisting Nixon and resigning before they took improper action.

Myth 5: Barr was selected to scuttle the special counsel investigation.

Some have insisted that Barr was appointed to curtail Mueller and that he opposes the Russia investigation. That again is demonstrably false. Barr praised the appointment of Mueller and has never opposed the Russia investigation. He has repeatedly stated that he believes Mueller must be allowed to complete his investigation and that, as attorney general, he would turn over as much of the report to Congress as possible under existing law. He has stated, “I believe the country needs a credible and thorough investigation into Russia’s efforts to meddle in our democratic process, including the extent of any collusion by Americans, and thus feel strongly that the special counsel must be permitted to finish his work.”

None of that is the stuff of legend, of course, as these all just facts. Yet, this is Washington, where legends have a nasty habit of becoming fact.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. He testified as one of the witnesses called before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the confirmation of William Barr for United States attorney general. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

48 thoughts on “Five Myths About Bill Barr”

  1. I love how you’re able to ignore Barr’s history of being an active participant in the development of bulk communications surveillance of private citizens by the US government, among other things. You do us and yourself a tremendous disservice by providing cover for him. I have come to expect better of you

  2. Here is one glaring truth. It must not be ignored: “CIA Covert Operative William Barr Nominated by Trump for Attorney General. His Role in the Iran Contra Affair”

    “Will anyone in Washington, or in the CIA asset-filled mainstream media, dare bring up Iran-Contra? Will anyone dare detail Barr’s corruption, and his longstanding ties to the Bush/Clinton network? What about the fact that Barr is best friends with Robert Mueller?

    Even the alternative media, including the whistleblowing research-intensive pro-Trump anon community, has been virtually silent on Barr, despite the fact that his criminal history is glaringly obvious, lurid, and begging to be exposed.” find the article at Global Research

    1. “silent on Barr, despite the fact that his criminal history is glaringly obvious, lurid, and begging to be exposed.”

      You have your platform Jill. Expose him accurately and with proof. We are all waiting.

  3. Why does Jonathan make no mention of the scandalous behavior of Mr. Barr during Iran-Contra, BCCI and Ruby Ridge? Very disappointing.

    Barr has demonstrated his bias towards special interests and out of control government. Shame on Jonathan.

    1. He didn’t, because Mr. Barr’s ‘scandalous behavior’ is a figment of your imagination. (He was not employed at the Department of Justice until the terminal phases of the Iran-Contra investigation, when all the principle defendants had entered guilty pleas or been tried).

    1. I opine that he is a vast improvement on his predecessor. Don’t understand how The Donald was able to secure the services of a person with that experience.

  4. A myth is a “widely held” false belief.

    But only a few even knew Mr. Barr existed until recently. So the 5 falsehoods are not myths. Tch, tch, Jonathan Turley.

  5. Here are a couple of points you didn’t cover: 1. Barr said he wouldn’t agree to recuse himself if that was the recommendation of the career ethics experts at the DOJ unless he agreed with their conclusion. So, what would be the point of requesting a review by ethics experts if he isn’t going to comply with their recommendation of recusal? We all know how that’s going to go down, because we all know the history of Trump with attorneys general, and specifically, the matter of recusal, which is why Sessions was fired. We also know about Trump’s history of demanding loyalty, and if last night’s Buzz Feed report is true, that Trump gets people to lie for him. Sorry, I’m not buying what you’re selling, Turley. If Barr is the choir boy you portray him to be, he would have unequivocally said that “…if ethics experts opine I should recuse, I will recuse”. 2. As to the Mueller report, Barr could have simply said that he would fully release the Mueller report with privileged matter redacted, if protecting privileged matters would be the only basis for not fully releasing the Mueller report. That’s not what he said. Lawyers are experts at weasel-wording, in this case, being intentionally vague as to circumstances that he would consider proper for not releasing or redacting the report. There can be little doubt that the report will contain a lot of information adverse to Trump, his company and his children, and likely grounds to support multiple criminal charges. He could reassured the committee as to reasons for not releasing the report, but he didn’t, so we are again in a “at my discretion” situation. He also could have simply said: “I trust Bob Mueller. If he found grounds and recommends criminal charges, I promise that charges will be filed.” He didn’t say anything close to that, and without committing to releasing the full report, sans privileged matter, Americans and Congress won’t even know the results of this investigation we paid for if Barr, in his magnanimous discretion, decides to bury the report because it didn’t meet his personal criteria to charge Trump criminally. The fact that he was nominated by Trump, and that he gratuitously wrote a piece setting for his opinions on what he believes to be expansive Presidential power in this climate are very troubling if he believes his judgment should prevail in the matters of recusal and release of the Mueller report.

    This country is at a crisis of integrity. We need an attorney general not beholden to anything or anyone other than the rule of law and the best interests of the American people. Barr is not that person. He wants the title and power and he’s in bed with a flea-infested dog.

    Meanwhile, consistent with his pettiness and vindictiveness,Trump pulled the Air Force jet from the Congressional delegation that was headed to Brussels to reassure our nervous NATO allies in view of the reporting about Trump talking about pulling the United States out of NATO. The delegation was then scheduled to go to Afghanistan to meet with troops on the ground to assess future funding needs and to hear their concerns first-hand. Trump called this a “photo-op”, because, in truth, that’s what his visits really are. Trump outed this trip, which was supposed to be secret for security reasons. Nancy Pelosi is second in line to assume the Presidency, and ever since 911, the Speaker’s travels are kept confidential and handled by the Air Force. Trump, as with many things, doesn’t know this, so he suggested she fly commercial. There is NO commercial air traffic to the war zone in Afghanistan. Despite all of this, he managed to come up with the same type and size of Air Force jet to transport Melania to Mar A Lago yesterday.

    1. You could improve the quantum of integrity in this country by silence.

    2. Trump did compromise, and he offered a one-way trip to Afghanistan for Speaker Pelosi and her entourage.😊😀

      1. Trump also suggested Pelosi could fly commercial, i.e. Afghan Air! Regarding the wall around Pelosi’s home, we say, “tear down that wall, Ms.Pelosi!”

        1. Why does Pelosi’s tits start at her belly?

          It just looks weird every time I see her picture.

          1. Yum!!!,

            Did you guys see those Chicken Paws? We serve them at our house…. To the dogs. LOL;) They look funny hanging out the side of their mouths as they eat them.

    3. Nutchacha wrote: ” 1. Barr said he wouldn’t agree to recuse himself if that was the recommendation of the career ethics experts at the DOJ unless he agreed with their conclusion.”

      Just for sheets and giggles tell us, dear Nutty one, when it is that you subscribe to morals, norms and ethics and when you do not. Or do you subscribe to situation ethics, that current dictatorship of relativism articulated by Pope Benedict XVI / Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger all too well that describes your club foot and your unholy soul?

      yeah, of course that’s it

      “A “Dictatorship of Relativism”?: Symposium in Response to Cardinal Ratzinger’s Last Homily”

      “How many doctrinal winds we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many styles of thought,” he lamented.

      “The thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves, tossed from one end to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism, from collectivism to radical individualism, from atheism to religious mysticism, from agnosticism to syncretism,” the prelate observed.

      Cardinal Ratzinger added that, meanwhile, “to have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church,” is labeled “fundamentalism.”

      “And this while relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be led here and there by any wind of doctrine, is seen as the only behavior abreast of the times,” he said.

      We are now witnessing the “dictatorship of relativism” which “does not recognize anything as absolute and leaves as the ultimate measure only the measure of each one and his desires,” Cardinal Ratzinger added.

      1. Benedict was a smart one. Maybe that’s why he was the first pope in centuries to retire, he saw the storm coming and said fuhgeddaboudit

        1. He is indeed a smart one but sadly, as he admitted himself, he was no administrator. He left the Church in a huge mess

          He pleaded with Pope John Paul II to be dismissed from his job as Prefect for the CDF but JPII would not have any of it. Ratzinger wanted to return to Germany and just be an academic writer. Instead he was Pope B16 and that didn’t go very well for the Church.

    4. Trust a left wing fascist socialist to twist and reframe and redefine the truth to your warped immoral non values the Constitutionalists decent citizens. Got caught warping and reweaving and just continued to do more of the same as if you would be believed. So you switched to ad hominems but I’ve switched to ad machina to remind everyone most of The Collective are just programmed machine parts adding up to one then no parts.

      By know your URL has been traced but we wait for the day our military is sent out to find and detain you then hold a tribunal under the Patriot Act for acts and supporting Acts of terrorism your side forgot to exclude themselves from in the passing of it. Didn’t exclude the Congress either for for that matter any citizens. Professor Turley was correct on that score so was Barr.

      But back to business. Pelosi, Schumer and company got caught trying to violate more national security regulations and laws. We can add all of them to the list which has Hillary and Billy Bubba Clinton at the top.

      Think Meuller is now going to fail to do a complete iand thorough nvestigation?

      He hasn’t much choice misprision of office such as strong arming, black mailing and forcing false answers and confessions. No difference between his investigation so far and the inquisition or in France The Terror.

      Hint. Don’t worry so much about conservatives nor even GOP. The LARGEST voting block are the independent self governing unaffilited citizens no people not persons but citizens of the Constitutional Centrist Coalition.

      1. Excellent! Exhibit A in the demonstration that the gullible rubes, dupes, klan wannabees, pocket-traitors and grifters on the make are so worried they’re sh*tting themselves. Thanks for checking in; oh, and I can tell you’ve figured out what that ticking sound is!

        this is to “hannity’s not answering my tweets anymore” mikey

        1. Breaking News: Buzz FeD statements regarding the Commie/Nazi Anti-American Trash of Heir Mueller & Vessman & their Special Coup Counsel Illegally Leaked too Buzz Fed False Evidence by Cohen attempting to Frame Trump …………


          And next up Anal Probes Oder for Heir Mueller & Heir Vessman & Special Coup Counsel Co.


    5. Since Pelosi is blocking the pay of the military why should they? She isn’t in their chain of command and has NO RIGHT tot he use of military aircraft at all. Especially since she’s blocking their paychecks. Do you think she’s stupid enough to trust her life to those she’s just treated like spit. p replaces another letter

  6. So Prof Turley, if AG’s have more power then our Presidents then why do we even have Presidents?

    After all Lawyers have been granted Title by a licence secured by their oath so their secondary oath to the USC is rendered meaningless to you & Barr?

    So the “in” Public Coup against our Nation & President continues at an even faster pace.

    Anti Trumpers ignoring Bruce Ohr, Buzzfeed’s lies as in the debunked Pissgate Papers & other such perjury to the people of the nation?

    BTW: I love Prof Turley’s & others Fiction of how Nixon was kicked out of office. I think they’re on a fool’s errand if they think they can pull of that type of Coup again here against Trump.

    On the upside if they planned an actual physical coup the next few weeks Peloisy/Chunky & co. are close at hand for easy arrest.

    Further, Everything I’ve found out about Burr the recent past Trump should pass on this guy & fire all upper leadership in the DOJ/FBI today as he should have done 2 seconds after he was swore in.

    1. It’s called checks and balances whats left of it after the revolution of 1909. No one was more powerful than the combine effort of the rest of the country No one person no one branch of Gov’t.

      Now we have rogue judges and rogue party’s who pledge allegiance to sociaism instead of constitutionalism AS IS REQUIRED but AS WAS VIOLATED.with as many as four lies and evasions.

      For the uninitiated NO person is listed in the OATH and No Thing. Only The Constitution. Not even the ‘officers appointed over me’ but we require regardless of rank loyalty to the Constitution.

  7. Why are you selling this JT? Ya think somehow Mitch McConnell will not let this one go thru? At least Barr has a rating with the ABA. There are others that Mitch let fly thru that were listed as unqualified by the ABA and Mitch did not even blink.

    1. Making the leftist ABA same as the ACLUeless happy are not the requirements listed for SCOTUS.But we saw how the fascist left did the last time. Using a committee is not required. Using political parties is not required. So your argument is blow to bits

      Do you even know what the requirements are for AG? Since you brought it up?

  8. The left regards Barr as “sinister and equivocating” if he disagrees with their legal positions. They don’t understand the Constitution or the law and that is why they want a living Constitution so that they can manipulate it to reach their goals that would otherwise be legally and logically denied.

    1. The Constitution has always been ‘living’ and can be changed at the whim of the MAJORITY of the citizens . The method is clearly laid out. and you are correct in iyour summation and this comment just points out the reasons why their version is false.

      1. “The Constitution has always been ‘living’ and can be changed at the whim of the MAJORITY of the citizens .”

        Michael. there is a difference between a strict interpretation of the Constitution and a living document. To change the Constitution requires more than you say above. That makes the Constitution less changeable and therefore not a ‘living document’ as described by most of society.

  9. It is not a myth to say that his grandpa’s mother’s name was Barrnun or that he had sex with a nun in college. He has a right to release the report and should not bar it. He is a member of the Bar. He drinks at a bar. The bar tender was a nun. Her name is Bar Nun. More will be said later.

    1. if the Freedom from Religion bozos don’t like him then his stock just went up

      I’m still troubled by some things about Barr which don’t relate to the above stated myths or his supposed lack of sufficient secularism

      1. As the Constitution dictates no questions of a religious nature may be asked or used. Secularism as the word for lack of religion is never the less banned under the same rule. as it pertains to religion.

  10. We all know that reading a standard doesn’t mean you agree with it. Dear Professor, he’s already made his oath of fealty. He wouldn’t have been nominated if he had not done so. Give me a break.

  11. Ha. He has got a big one! Just like another attorney from Richmond who posts frequently on here.

  12. Myths? When allegations are made contrary to available evidence, then they are not myths. They are lies. Calling them myths subsidizes the liars. Call them out on the lies taxes the liars; and as the adage goes, if you tax something, you are likely to get less of it.

    1. But what they are, allegations, are the same as those purported, reportedly or another form alleged – UNPROVEN. No facts in evidence submitted much less permitted

      What is a myth is the subjectivist socialist version or to put it more bluntly what is a lie.Restating it does not make it the truth except to adherents of Marxist Leninism. National, International or Regressive.

        1. “Goebels perfected The Big Lie.”

          Goebels also knew how to quickly change his position so he could live to see another day. I think he differed with Hitler. Goebels number 1 objective was socialism Hitlers number 1 objective was conquest in Europe and number 2 socialism. Guess who won the debate. One of Hitler’s main players refused to change his mind about placing socialism first and thought about starting a new party. Can you guess what happened to him?

          But note one thing. Socialism among the proponents of the Nazi’s stood as number one or number 2. In Fascist Italy Socialism was the predecessor. That is why the entire construct of the left is wrong. Nazism and fascism aren’t right wing ideas. They are completely left wing.

          1. Socialism back then meant state ownership of the means of production. Doesn’t mean that now.

            1. Socialism is a creepy thing in more than one way. It belongs on a spectrum, but as it creeps into your life liberty disappears and eventually property (happiness) and then life.

                1. David, you are a bit behind. Sweden found that it reached its limits and moved in the opposite direction. There will always be a degree of collectivism especially in a large country where people have a lot of contact with one another. The idea is to control the creep because eventually socialism causes great harm to the economy and to the people.

                  As you take power from the people it ends up in the hands of others. You do remember what Lord Acton said, don’t you? If you don’t I will provide the quote. Take a look at the communist and socialist governments around the world. Start with the worst: Nazi Germany along with facist Italy. Look at Lenin/ Stalin, and Mao. Look at Cuba and Cambodia. Despite it being one country look at North and South Vietnam where the south maintains a good deal of capitalism while the north has to pay for its needs from its southern part. Look at North Korea and South Korea.

                  Look at the US and look at some of the stagnation we faced as government regulations increased and how the economy improved when they were taken away. Look at Singapore and how it has progressed with economic freedom though I don’t know of any country where the people are as free as they are in the US.

                  Understand that these concepts are fluid so one has to deal with more than the term socialism in order to truly understand how things fuction because there are many components involved in the political economy.

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