The president is not 'an errand boy for Congress': Barr says he's protecting presidency, not Trump




  • In Business
  • 2019-05-21 15:31:25Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

WASHINGTON - In the short time since his return to the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr has faced a tidal wave of public controversy and criticism for what critics see as an effort to shield President Donald Trump from congressional oversight.

Barr has been accused of misrepresenting the contents of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference and potential obstruction of justice by the president. The House Judiciary Committee has already voted to hold Barr in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena for an unredacted version of Mueller's report. And pundits and politicians, including some conservatives, have accused him of acting like the president's personal defense attorney. Many of the 2020 presidential candidates have called on him to resign.

But it is the presidency, not the president, that he is defending, Barr told The Wall Street Journal during a trip to El Salvador, his first interview since his February swearing in.

White House: Congress has no 'legitimate role' in investigating Trump, rejects document demands

More: Attorney General William Barr jokes contempt in first 100 days 'must be a record' during Rosenstein farewell

More: White House tells Don McGahn, former counsel, not to testify to House panel

"I felt the rules were being changed to hurt Trump, and I thought it was damaging for the presidency over the long haul," Barr said.

"At every grave juncture the presidency has done what it is supposed to do, which is to provide leadership and direction," he told the Journal. "If you destroy the presidency and make it an errand boy for Congress, we're going to be a much weaker and more divided nation."

Barr, 68, has long believed in the need for a strong executive branch. In his first stint as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, he bristled at independent counsel Lawrence Walsh's investigation into the Iran-Contra affair and reportedly had "an itchy finger" to fire him.

Walsh's probe into the Reagan administration's sale of arms to Iran and illegal funding of anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua uncovered notes from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, which Walsh said were "evidence of a conspiracy among the highest-ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public."

Weinberger was facing felony indictments when Barr advised Bush to pardon him, along with five other officials implicated in the scandal.

In 2001, Barr explained that he "favored the broadest" use of the president's power to pardon.

"I went over and told the President I thought he should not only pardon Caspar Weinberger, but while he was at it, he should pardon about five others," Barr said.

Barr to House Speaker Pelosi: 'Did you bring your handcuffs?'

More: Is there a Capitol jail where Democrats could lock up Trump aides who refuse to testify?

When Bush and his advisers debated whether or not to go to war after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, then-Deputy Attorney General Barr argued the president had the authority to order military operations with or without congressional approval, according to Bob Woodward's 1991 book, "The Commanders."

During his time at the head of Bush's Office of Legal Counsel, he tried to restore the "powers of the presidency," which he felt had been "severely eroded since Watergate and the tactics of the Hill Democrats over an extended period of time when they were in power." He said the group tried to create "uniform standards on how you handle document requests, how you serve executive privilege, what Congress can get, what they can't get."

And in a February 2017 op-ed for The Washington Post, Barr said Trump clearly had the constitutional authority to order a ban on travel to the United States from a list of predominantly Muslim nations and was right to fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she directed the Justice Department not to defend the order in court.

"Presidential powers are not exercised by a body or group. The Constitution vests 'all executive power' in one and only one person - the president," Barr wrote. "The president need not 'convince' his subordinate that his decision reflects the best view of the law."

And in a June 2018 memo to the Justice Department, Barr warned that if Mueller found Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey to be obstruction it "would have potentially disastrous implications, not just for the Presidency, but for the Executive branch as a whole."

"The Constitution places no such limit on the President's supervisory authority," Barr argued.

Barr has also generated controversy with his contention that "spying did occur" by the FBI on the Trump campaign in 2016. He has opened an investigation to determine if that "spying" was "properly predicated" and whether "government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale."

"Government power was used to spy on American citizens," Barr told the Journal in the first part of the interview, which was published last week. "I can't imagine any world where we wouldn't take a look and make sure that was done properly."

Comey has defended the decision to investigate Trump campaign officials.

"The FBI doesn't spy, the FBI investigates," Comey said in an interview earlier this month. "We investigated a very serious allegation that Americans might be hooked up with the Russian effort to attack our democracy."

Mueller's report did not call for Trump's prosecution for obstruction of justice, nor did it exonerate him. Rather, it outlined the evidence of 10 potentially obstructive acts. Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided not to charge Trump.

Many legal experts and former federal prosecutors have opined that anyone who was not the president would have been charged. Barr's decision not to prosecute and his encouragement of Trump to assert executive privilege in the face of congressional subpoenas have led many critics to say that the attorney general has done irreparable harm to his reputation.

"I've noticed one of the talking points these days is, 'Oh isn't it a tragedy Barr is losing his reputation,"' or, 'His legacy is being tinged because of his service in this administration,'" Barr told Fox News.

"I don't think those people are really concerned about my legacy."

William Barr: What you need to know about Trump's attorney general

Rosenstein criticizes Comey: The former FBI director 'acting as a partisan pundit'

Comey called Trump a 'chronic liar': What his anti-Trump politics mean for the FBI

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The president is not 'an errand boy for Congress': Barr says he's protecting presidency, not Trump

COMMENTS

More Related News

Mitt Romney violated Senate rules by drinking chocolate milk out of a bottle during the impeachment trial
Mitt Romney violated Senate rules by drinking chocolate milk out of a bottle during the impeachment trial

Under impeachment trial rules, senators are only allowed to drink water or milk, and they're barred from using iPhones, talking, or standing.

Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says
Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says
  • World
  • 2020-01-28 13:16:18Z

WASHINGTON -- John Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that President Donald Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Bolton.Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Barr mentioned conversations Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of...

Trump Call
Trump Call 'Less Than Perfect,' Defense Says: Impeachment Update

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump's defense lawyers resume their presentation at 1 p.m. Monday after opening their arguments Saturday by saying House managers failed to prove the president should be removed from office.Here are the latest developments:Trump Call 'Less Than Perfect,' Defense Says (7:45 p.m.)Former independent counsel Robert Ray said Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president was "less than perfect," but that doesn't mean it's an impeachable abuse of power.It would have been better for Trump to have pursued an investigation "through proper channels," said Ray, a member of Trump's legal team."While the president certainly enjoys the power to do otherwise, there is consequence...

Democrats demand Bolton testify after NYT report Trump directly told him Ukraine aid tied to investigations
Democrats demand Bolton testify after NYT report Trump directly told him Ukraine aid tied to investigations

President Donald Trump told John Bolton he wanted to freeze military aid to Ukraine until it investigated his Democratic rivals, a report said.

Senate should remove Trump, majority of independent voters say in Fox News poll
Senate should remove Trump, majority of independent voters say in Fox News poll

Overall, 50% of registered voters said in a Fox News poll that President Trump should be convicted and removed in the Senate; 44% said he should not.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Business