While Congress has never impeached a sitting US attorney general, the facts emerging from the national security whistleblower complaint have raised calls for Barr’s recusal from any involvement in DOJ actions around it. But while recusal is necessary, it is also insufficient.
Under Barr’s direction, the Department of Justice has lost its credibility, and public trust in government and the rule of law has been eroded. It doesn’t take a legal scholar to see that William Barr has turned the DOJ into a cover-up operation for Donald Trump.
The Trump-Ukraine scandal is only the latest in a long line of cover-ups linked to the fraudulent attorney general.
During a now-infamous July phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump pushed Zelensky to open an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden with a very specific recommendation: that Zelensky get in touch with attorney general William Barr, too.
“Whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said, according to the White House’s notes of the conversation. He wrapped up the conversation by promising to have Barr call Zelensky soon. “We will get to the bottom of it,” he said. “I’m sure you will figure it out.”
For the whistleblower who filed a complaint about the call—a complaint that just launched the fourth presidential impeachment inquiry in U.S. history—the invocation of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer was an alarming development. “Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well,” they wrote.
The whistleblower’s report alleged that this was not the first time White House lawyers concealed politically sensitive records of Trump’s conversations, and lawyers in Barr’s Justice Department stymied efforts to transmit that report to Congress. Once again, Barr finds himself involved in a presidential cover-up—or now, as Nancy Pelosi put it, the “cover-up of a cover-up,” too.
Barr’s willingness to ignore the rule of law in order to expand his president’s power is the most persistent —and most consequential— theme of his tenure at DOJ. The Department of Justice has long prided itself on maintaining its independence from the political process, because a justice system’s legitimacy depends on the willingness of those in charge to enforce the law against anyone who breaks it, regardless of the partisan fallout.
Barr, however, views the powers of his office as a political prize to be won, and uses those powers to protect the administration’s friends and attack its enemies with impunity.
As Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin put it, Barr’s “prostitution of the Department of Justice for the president’s political agenda has been necessary to the president’s schemes.” Trump is a lawless person, but it is Barr’s quiet willingness to work the system on Trump’s behalf that allows this lawlessness to flourish.
Yes, William Barr deserves an impeachment inquiry, regardless of the outcome, because trust in government requires it.