A federal prosecutor’s testimony Wednesday that he was pressed by supervisors to offer a more lenient sentencing recommendation for a friend of President Trump’s capped a remarkable four-month stretch in which Attorney General William P. Barr has seemed to repeatedly bend the Justice Department to Trump’s political interests — generating significant controversy but no personal consequence, legal analysts said.
Since February, Barr has intervened in two criminal cases to the benefit of those who once advised Trump; ousted a U.S. attorney who is investigating Trump’s personal lawyer, and dutifully implemented Trump’s vision for a forceful crackdown on demonstrators in the District protesting police violence.
Democrats and legal observers have decried the moves — calling on Barr to resign or be investigated by his agency’s internal watchdog — and morale inside the Justice Department has plummeted, according to several Justice Department employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter frankly. But lawmakers, who already held Barr in contempt last year for defying congressional subpoenas, seem to have little in the way of practical recourse.
Republicans, who control the Senate, would short-circuit any bid to impeach and remove Barr, who they have asserted is drawing ire because he is trying to ferret out the corruption of his Justice Department predecessors in a Democratic administration.
“I think Barr’s conduct has made it clear that he is not acting as the attorney general for the people of the United States, but as a private attorney to protect the interests of the president,” said former U.S. attorney Barbara McQuade. “What can be done about William Barr? I really think the only thing that can be done is impeachment. And I think that this Republican Senate has shown it doesn’t really have any appetite for that.”
The tension over allegations of Barr’s malfeasance reached new heights Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee took testimony from two current prosecutors, including one who had worked on the team of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The hearing came just as an appeals court panel dealt a blow to Barr’s critics, siding with the Justice Department and ordering a reluctant lower court judge to immediately drop the criminal case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI, as Barr had sought.Read more