Bill Barr’s Family Time: How The Justice Department Has Lost One Of Its Staunchest Defenders

Below is my column in the Hill on the early departure of Attorney General Bill Barr.  The move will give Trump the record on Attorneys General.  That is not good.  A President cannot selected too many Supreme Court justices or too few Attorneys General. Reports indicate that, with Barr leaving, Trump is openly discussing appointing a special counsel for the Hunter Biden investigation.  At this point, that appears entirely unnecessary and would further tarnish the image of Trump as someone who is interfering with the internal decisions of the Justice Department. What is clear is that Barr proved a critical fire wall for the Department at one of its most chaotic and challenging periods. As I have previously said, Barr remains more sinned against than sinner and history will vindicate his tenure at the Justice Department.

Here is the column:

Attorney General Bill Barr will be “leaving to spend the holidays with his family.”   In Washington, “spending more time with your family” is the coded language for forced departures. It is our version of euphemisms like “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” in the Godfather movie. Luca Brasi was not really sleeping with the fishes and Bill Barr Bill Barr might not have suddenly wanted to leave early to spend more time with his family. Indeed, since his kids live in the area, it was about as difficult for him to spend time with his family as . . . well . . . going home.

I testified at his Senate confirmation hearing. I have known him for decades and even represented him, along with other former attorneys general, in the Clinton impeachment litigation. In that hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal asked me why President Trump wanted Barr, suggesting a stooge was being placed as head of the Justice Department. I responded, “I do not know what the president thought he was getting with Barr, but I know what he is getting. He is going to get someone who identifies incredibly closely with the department, and I think he will be a vigorous defender of it.”

It is clear now that Trump may have thought he was getting someone else but that Barr proved to be precisely the attorney general I hoped he would be. As I mentioned in the testimony, Barr and I have fundamental disagreements over presidential powers and I disagreed with him on a number of issues during his most recent stint at Attorney General. However, in confrontations with the White House, Barr proved to be the staunch defender of the integrity and independence of the Department. For weeks, Trump has slammed Barr for not finding systemic voter fraud, then for not disclosing the investigation of Hunter Biden before the election.

In an interview before the announcement of Barr’s departure, Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade pressed Trump about his anger at Barr for not disclosing that investigation. Kilmeade noted, “Jonathan Turley said he had no choice … it would have been like James Comey again.” In response, Trump said he was “very disappointed” in Barr.

That was when I knew Barr was done. At the start of his administration, Trump said he was “very disappointed” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation. As with Barr, Session’s decision was compelled by ethical rules, and he yielded to the overwhelming view of experts, including those within Justice. Yet Sessions was later dispatched to spend more time with his family.

In the interview, Trump insisted that special counsel Robert Mueller went public to correct the record after a false story about the Russia collusion investigation. BuzzFeed ran a false story about Trump ordering his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress, for which Cohen was prosecuted; Mueller’s staff refuted the story after Democrats and various legal experts cited it to demand impeachment. But unlike the Hunter Biden investigation, the special counsel investigation was already public and its final report was being completed. Moreover, the story concerned the Cohen case, which was closed with his plea.

But Trump was not demanding that Barr act like Mueller. He was demanding that Barr act like James Comey, and that Barr repeat the very act that the president denounced as a basis to fire Comey. The Justice Department bars public disclosures of ongoing investigations. Not only can such disclosures undermine investigations, but they are unfair to subjects or targets who have not been charged. The Justice Department also follows a policy not to make disclosures or file indictments shortly before an election. So Barr had to choose between doing the right thing and the convenient thing. He chose exactly as I thought he would.

Notably, if Barr had acted unethically, it would not have achieved what Trump wanted. If Barr had publicly revealed an investigation involving Hunter Biden before the election, the Biden presidential campaign simply would have noted that Biden was not charged with any crime and would cooperate with investigators. Unless Barr had dished out untried allegations and raw evidence, it would not have changed the election’s political dynamic. Some of us wrote about how information, including a subpoena, indicated that Hunter Biden was under investigation. The media simply refused to report on that evidence and would have continued to protect Joe Biden before the election. After all, the mere fact of an investigation does not establish the basis of a crime, let alone guilt.

With Barr now dispatched for “family time” and replaced by Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, Trump will set a record of six attorneys general, acting or confirmed, in four years. That is literally too many by half.  It is the same number that George Bush had during eight years in office.

The departure will end one of the most adverse terms of any attorney general in history. Trump’s attacks on Barr pale in comparison to the false attacks in the media. Trump’s attacks are, at least, based on fact: Barr did choose ethics over politics. The media, in sad contrast, has repeatedly and falsely accused Barr of wrongdoing and then refused to correct those stories.

The media widely reported that Barr ordered Lafayette Park cleared of peaceful protesters to enable a Trump photo op at nearby Saint Johns Church. The evidence directly contradicts those claims. I testified before Congress on the incident and cited overwhelming evidence that the decision to clear the park area was made the prior weekend, after violence erupted around the White House. Barr was not aware of the photo op when he approved the clearing of the area, which was delayed due to the late arrival of personnel and fencing material. Yet the false story was widely repeated.

Barr never seems to care much about such media and political attacks. Those of us who know him are far more bothered by the criticism than he is. I had lunch with him two days before the announcement of his resignation, and he remained resolute and content despite barbs from all sides. Barr has always proven the ultimate immovable object in the path of irresistible forces. Whether it is the press or the president, he is formidable precisely because he knows who he is. He has a sense of his own “True North” and does not break from that line of sight. Barr will have his family time. That is good for his family, but not so good for the country.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.

134 thoughts on “Bill Barr’s Family Time: How The Justice Department Has Lost One Of Its Staunchest Defenders”

  1. Under Bill Barr, politically “sensitive” investigations, whether Hunter Biden, or Jeffrey Epstein were kept out in the Field Offices –not taken up by the FBI’s 7th floor Execs. This is how things should be run. If Comey and McCabe had followed this standard, and managed the agency without getting involved in casework, they might still have their jobs.

  2. Bill Barr is a devout practicing Catholic, and lived his Faith as Attorney General. Obama’s AGs were a disgrace and Biden will channel the darkness of evil, the twisting of words, that permeate all Democrat doublespeak. One example of Bill Barr’s great leadership was stopping the abuses by Democrats one signature: ending life of the most innocent. Abortion is evil and Bill Barr knew that

    Justice Department sues Vermont medical center over abortion

    The U.S. Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday against the University of Vermont Medical Center alleging it forces staff members who object to abortion on religious grounds to participate in abortion procedures.

    The Vermont lawsuit alleges the Burlington hospital violated the Church Amendment, which prevents hospitals from discriminating against health care workers who refuse to perform or assist with abortions.

    “No institution or person should force any health care provider to perform an abortion if doing so would violate the provider’s religious beliefs or moral convictions,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “This kind of indecent coercion violates everything this country stands for.”

    “OCR’s latest threats are not just baseless from a legal standpoint, they’re an attack on reproductive care and we will do everything we can to protect our patients’ access to the services they need,” said hospital president Dr. Stephen Leffler.

    “As the primary tertiary care center for our region, we have an obligation to provide access to safe and legal reproductive health care to our patients who rely on us,” he said.

    Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, a Democrat, said in a statement supporting the hospital the department of Health and Human Service’s action “represents a last-ditch effort by the Trump Administration to restrict a woman’s access to abortion — a theme that has permeated throughout Donald Trump’s presidency.”

    In August 2019 the Civil Rights Division filed a notice of violation against the hospital alleging it had forced a nurse to participate in an abortion against her will.

    At the time the notice was filed a federal official told reporters the nurse believed she would be participating in a procedure after a patient suffered a miscarriage. After learning the procedure was an abortion she was told by the doctor, “Please don’t hate me.”

    The nurse asked to be relieved, but was told no. The lawsuit said the incident caused the nurse, who was referred to in court documents as Nurse 1, “deep emotional trauma.”

    A year later the nurse, who has since left the hospital, filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Office.

  3. FOX NEWS could once proclaim, “We Are The Champions, The Champions of the World!”

    Then the Murdoch Midgets took over and went rabidly left.

    FOX NEWS ratings have plummeted across the board.

    No matter, the Murdoch Midgets and their leftist wives have probably earned an extra canape at the cocktail parties. Good enough in their circles. Besides descendants of a founder with a high IQ tend to have IQ scores that regress toward the mean. Everyone knows that. But this is the first time I have seen the regression overshoot the mark on the way down.

    They will never be forgiven by their core audience.

  4. As AG Barr departs DOJ, Acting AG Rosen declines to say whether he will appoint Special Counsel(s) to probe Hunter Biden and/or claims of 2020 election fraud:

    Consistent with Professor Turley’s recommendation, President-elect Biden may be narrowing in on Merrick Garland as the next AG, but there is credible pushback:

    “His qualifications for attorney general were lauded by those on the left, but some worried it would not be smart to create a vacancy on the critical D.C. Circuit with a strong chance the Republicans will be able to continue to be the majority in the Senate. The other person on the attorney general shortlist seen as a leading choice is Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.”

    “Doug Jones. For the love of all that’s good, just pick Doug Jones and be done with it,” Charlotte Clymer, a former Hillary Clinton staffer, said in a tweet. When asked to elaborate on why, she continued, “An important vacancy on the federal bench with the plausible threat of the GOP holding the Senate.”

  5. Below is John Solomon’s latest report. Take note that unlike the slim buckets we have to deal with Solomon provides sources to back up what he says. This one has 3 sources including a Stzrok email. there is a space in between the citations so that this email isn’t automatically blocked by WordPress..

    StrzokTextCarter PageHalper.pdf

    CarterPage FISA.pdf

    DOJ IG report on Russia FISAs

    They can be found on the dig in section

    New Strzok text messages show FBI warned key allegation in FISA might be false

    Informer Halper captured Carter Page saying he didn’t know key Russian as alleged to court

    1. Glad to know that all the cons who say that Strzok can’t be trusted are happy to trust him when it serves them.

      1. You might not be able to trust the individual but his emails likely provide information he might otherwise lie about. Do you see why one should have thought a bit deeper before posting that response?

          1. Who I am is relatively unimportant compared to the response you provided above. Don’t you see the value of uncovering emails that likely the writer never thought would be released? That is the important thing in the exchange. Even more important, if one is interested in the subject, was the article written and its documentation. Right?

  6. Nothing Trump has done or said can tarnish the reputation, professionalism or character of Bill Barr. Our country has been extremely lucky to have had him as our Attorney General.

  7. More news that isn’t getting the coverage it deserves…

    Natasha Bertrand (Politico):
    “SCOOP/BREAKING NEWS: The Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, have evidence that hackers accessed their networks, officials directly familiar with the matter said. …”

    What does Trump have to say about “what experts are calling the greatest cyber hack of the U.S. government ever” (quoting Michael McFaul, former Ambassador to Russia)?

    1. Good alert, CTHD.

      Nations with nuclear arsenals should not throw Stuxnet stones?

      The nuclear arsenals of nine countries pose a threat to all life on Earth. These arsenals are vulnerable to human error and targets for terrorism by deranged state and non-state actors. Multilateral nuclear disarmament is a moral and legal imperative. President Trump must reassure the world that the US nuclear arsenal is stable and hack-proof. The four nuclear powers of northern Christendom – France, Russia, the UK and US – should agree on global conditions for removing all of their nuclear weapons from alert status. President-elect Biden must reverse course on the new nuclear arms race between the US, China and Russia. Leadership by US denuclearization example is the first and surest way to compel other nuclear weapons proliferators to follow suit, including breakout and near-breakout proliferators like the DPRK and Iran.

    2. CTHD– The cyber attack by foreign entities into our most protected systems is serious.

      It also makes it more probable that voting machines, with lesser protection, were wide open to tampering by foreign powers. What better evidence for that than that overnight voting trends were reversed and totals increased for a demented old man whose son is compromised by questionable dealings with foreign governments.

      1. Young you doofus, overnight voting trends were reversed because:

        1. Mail in votes tended Democratic
        2. Some of the swing states did not count mail in votes until election day even though they tended to come in early. This dynamic did not occur in Florida for instance because mail in votes were counted as they came in. In other swing states like Arizona, Trump gained as time wore on.

        There was nothing mysterious or unexpected about this and Trump and Biden each agreed it would happen.

    3. Oh look. What a surprise!

      Commit to Dishonesty is once again carrying Chinese water by bringing up Russia again.

      Are you actually under the impression that the Chinese would not attempt to hack into the Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration?!

      Your days are numbered.

  8. Peter Navarro provides extensive documentation of all irregularities of the election with state by state comparisons of the 6 states most in question. It seems to be rather complete and worth it just for the graphics that define where each of the problems arose.

    This includes citations and explanations.

    I have only scanned most parts to date but based on this alone I think one can conclude this election’s results cannot represent a fair election.

    1. Navarro’s “report” starts with the idiotic claim that it is a big surprise that Trump’s lead on election night wilted as mail in ballots were counted over the ensuing days. No. it wasn’t. That trend was predicted by everyone – including Trump – with the only question being whether the trend would overtake his lead. The polls said it would be and they were right.

      If someone starts with that puerile nonsense, why read the rest unless you like loser-porn.

      Maybe anonymous can quote something he finds compelling, but I doubt it.

  9. Elections are over.

    America is now a one-party communist state.

    The American Founders admonish:

    “…to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”


    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

    – Declaration of Independence

  11. “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

    – William Casey, CIA Director 1981-1987

  12. History….? The media is in control, and has no problem deleting history or just ignoring it.

  13. Turley is still on his kamikaze mission to destroy what’s left of his reputation, and he’s doing it defending Barr? Barr was hired for one thing only, to obstruct justice on Trump’s behalf. Observable reality on Barr doesn’t seem to affect Turley. Barr’s name will go down with Trump in history and public opinion with incompetency and corruption.

    1. Actually Barr has a lot of fans not just Turley. And CIA is slapping his back right now, saying, good job protecting John Brennan.

      That’s who calls your shots Fishwings. You might as well check in with his twitter every day for orders

      it cracks me up how thoroughly you Democrat cheerleaders have fallen in line with the CIA and FBI these days. Wow, I remember decades ago when my liberal mentors were cynical about CIA and FBI. I wonder what changed? Maybe you can explain that to me since you’re so smart.

      Saloth Sar

  14. Jonathan: I’m sorry but your attempted defense of your good friend William Barr is like trying to put lipstick on a pig. You say “Barr proved a critical firewall for the Department” and in “confrontations with the White House, Barr proved to be the staunch defender of the integrity and independence of the Department”. Really? Before the election Barr was a firm supporter of Trump’s unfounded charges about voter fraud. In October Barr publicly endorsed Trump’s false claims that voting by mail would result in massive voter fraud. On November 9 Barr issued a memo authorizing prosecutors to pursue “clear and apparently credible allegations of irregularities, that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election…” Trump used this memo to support his attempt to discredit the election results. Barr knows that state law governs elections. The DOJ has no jurisdiction to challenge the voting process, to stop the counting or impound ballots. Barr’s memo was so contrary to Department policy that Richard Pilger, chief of Department’s elections branch, resigned in protest. In this case Barr clearly failed to act as a “firewall” to protect the DOJ from Trump’s interference. It was only after Biden was clearly the winner did Barr finally come out and acknowledge there was no evidence of massive election fraud.

    In the Hunter Biden investigation Barr does deserve credit for refusing to divulge details about unproven allegations because he knew Trump would use them to try to discredit the Biden campaign. But Barr was simply following long standing DOJ policy. This caused Barr’s falling out of favor with his boss. He knew his head was on the chopping block and decided to resign rather then wait and be fired. But even then Barr, in his resignation letter, was effusive in his praise for Trump–hailing Trump’s “unprecedented achievements”. Barr remained a loyal supporter of Trump’s autocratic rule and undermining of the constitutional order.

    What is remarkable is that you don’t even mention Barr’s unprecedented interference in the Roger Stone and Michael Flynn cases –undercutting career prosecutors decisions and putting the DOJ in the service of Trump’s demands to protect his friends and cronies. During his entire tenure Barr placed Trump’s political interests above the independence of the DOJ. Barr undermined the basic democratic principle that the law applied equally to all citizens. That not just my opinion but the consensus of former DOJ officials and legal experts. One of Barr’s critics, Stephen Gillers, an ethics legal expert at the New York University School of Law, has said: “The few times Barr put the nation ahead of the President will not atone for the many times he chose the opposite. He leaves a wounded department”. You, Jonathan, appear to be one of the few who has defended Barr. But that what happens when long standing friendships prevent us from recognizing the flaws in those we admire.

  15. Barr personally oversaw the clearing of Lafayette Park. I saw him do it in real time with excellent overhead camera work by CNN live. WTF is the AG doing in that roll?

      1. Unless you can prove differently. Unfortunately, your opinion is generally the opposite of the truth.

      2. I get the sarcasm!

        The question is why do it all? It was a peaceful protest – that was also entirely visible from overhead camera’s in real time, with protesters standing next to cops, talking, no pushing, no threats, nice day. etc. If it wasn’t for the photo op, what was it for? The photo op began about 30 minutes after Barr’s hanging our directing forces and talking with officers. Your the AG, not a Brown Shirts monitor.

  16. Turley knows nothing of the DOJ. It is demoralized by Barr’s undercutting of line prosecutors in order to do favors for Trump and his cronies. Unlikely any tears will follow his departure and over all a sigh of relief.

    1. If they are demoralized then that is good for the people. Their abuses have been going on for decades and they well deserve a measure of pain.

      Your precious “line prosecutors” may be decent chaps one by one, I know only a few but those are all fine lawyers and faithful public servants. But as a class they have exercised their discretion countless times in cynical ways that harm the people. We have been hearing about typical scenario for a long time: people prosecuted for having a handful of crack rocks that lands them in prison for decades on the presumption that they are drug dealers simply because they have more than a few doses in their pocket. No evidence of “dealing” is required. It is all just based on the weight.
      There is no need nor bother to actually prove intent to sell, they just make the assertion based on the weight and that’s that, lock them up, throw away the key. Decades of this! Shameless.

      In a system where you always get half time of for pleading guilty, is it any wonder that most people just plead guilty., And here they have the key to their vaunted statistics of prosecution, around 93%, and about one in fifty people ever bother to go to trial and make them prove their cases.

      Back in 72 the conviction rate was about 3/4. Now it is around 24/25. Who seriously has any tears to shed for these?

      Well, I guess they have a ways to go before they reach the PRC’s level of 99% convicted, but they’re well on their way!

      Saloth Sar

      1. Nothing Barr did was aimed at supposed “prosecutorial abuse” that didn’t involve a well off Trump crony. Sorry, but that does not address your concerns.

        1. Flynn was subject to prosecutorial abuse but your point is well taken in the sense that Flynn was a crony.

          I am not sure if you are aware of this granular detail, but implicitly in your reply there is something I would agree with. It is correct that Barr did not support the First Step Act, which was backed by President Trump, an effort to rectify some of these sentencing problems that I refer to. Ditto the Sentencing Reform and Corrections act. Which failed in 2015 before Trump took office if I understand it correctly, but Barr opposed that too. Sessions did too.

          But you have no credit to give Trump for that. I personally believe Barr was a Deep State actor specifically tasked with restraining Trump

          Anyhow, Trump signed and supported the First Step act and you can read about it here if you are really interested in this particular bit of minutiae.

          For my part, I am no fan of black civil rights leadership, their constant whining and attacks on white people as racists and so forth, but I always found it totally unconscionable that the feds were locking people of any race up as drug dealers without coming into court with a scintilla of proof of any drug dealing besides the weight. And a trivially small amount of weight was all that was required, too. A really dangerous trend that persisted for decades and probably isn’t fully rectified yet, either.

          And I might add that there are other areas of law where there is little or no need to try and prove intent (mens rea) for a federal crime which have also persisted alongside for decades as well. None the least of these are various firearms related laws where all they have to prove is literal possession and the question of someone understanding that a supposed violation was actually illegal or not is never allowed into question. This has always seemed totally unfair to me and it still is commonplace.

          This comes up with respect to repeat firearms offenders and the overly wide swath of crimes which can trigger it.

          It also comes up where somebody gets sentenced for a state beef which may be phrased as a misdemeanor but carries a sentence of more than a year, which makes it a technical felony under federal law regardless of what the state calls it. These ignorant convicts think they can still have guns but they can’t. They get identified and targeted by ATF for follow up enforcement whether they are up to any other criminal mischief or not. Here’s the atf basically bragging about it in a press release, apparent case of this type

          Saloth Sar

    2. Oh one more thing Joe you will be pleased to know that only days after Barr has retired the ATF is moving to ban certain harmless firearms accoutrements that it does not like, specifically, forearm braces that can be used alternatively as stocks. Yes this is a harmless variation which has been entirely lawful for years and associated with exactly nobody dying but they’re going to take a swipe at it anyhow.

      In days to come the Federal Register will be opening for comments and a law abiding million gun owners or so who would be criminalized with the stroke of a pen, are going to be very peezed off about it and will say so. So the bureaucraps there are moving fast on Joe Biden’s gun control agenda and he hasnt even taken office yet.

      Well some people say worse is better and we are apparently going to be testing that hypothesis in the coming years

      Saloth Sar

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