Upon taking office, Attorney General William Barr took a solemn oath that he would “bear true faith and allegiance” to the United States Constitution. The attorney general is the country’s chief law enforcement officer, charged with upholding the rule of law and seeing that the laws are applied in an even-handed fashion. Honesty and truthfulness are critical ingredients in performing that vital work.
There was nothing in the oath calling for Barr to pay blind loyalty to the president or to function as a political operative for Trump’s reelection effort. The last attorney general to play the role of lickspittle for his president was John Mitchell and that did not end very well for anyone.
Much like Mitchell, Barr has pushed a racially-tinged message of law and order, OK’d the use of federal forces against peaceful demonstrators, and bent the truth on a variety of Trump’s pet peeves. Barr blatantly misrepresented the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, essentially giving Trump an unwarranted clean bill of health. A Republican-appointed federal judge expressed serious concerns about Barr’s credibility and veracity in that shameful episode.
Barr has steadfastly supported Trump’s unfounded rant against mail-in voting, going so far as to grossly misrepresent a minor incident in Dallas County, Texas. Barr claimed in a Sept. 9 interview on CNN that the Justice Department had indicted a person in Texas for collecting and filling in 1,700 ballots. Turns out it was a local city council race, Barr’s office was not involved and his claims of massive fraud were untrue. The local prosecutor said they found only one “little tiny case.”
Barr has apparently stopped a number of troublesome inquiries by New York federal prosecutors into misconduct by Trump and his associates, including the handling of hush-money payoffs for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. In connection with that dirty work, Barr was caught lying about the purported resignation of the top prosecutor in that office.
Barr is trying to derail a New York defamation suit against Trump by making the preposterous claim that defaming the character of others is a regular presidential duty. Barr contends the taxpayers have the responsibility of defending Trump from a lawsuit claiming he defamed a woman — Trump said she lied when she accused him of raping her. A state court judge had ruled that the suit could go forward, clearing the way for the woman to obtain a DNA sample from Trump to compare with semen she claimed he had gotten on her dress during the alleged rape. Barr’s outlandish claim is that Trump was “acting within the scope of his” presidential duties in calling her a liar.
Barr is pushing the Justice Department even further into the effort to re-elect Trump. He has practically promised a trumped-up October surprise questioning the Mueller report. He has steadfastly supported Trump’s disastrous handling of the pandemic, discouraging mask wearing and social distancing. On Sept. 16, he made the incredible claim that pandemic lockdowns were the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American History.” He must not have heard of segregation, lynchings, Jim Crow Laws, child separation, incarceration of Japanese Americans, the Trail of Tears, on and on.
More troubling is the prospect that Barr will use the full force of the Justice Department to try to undo an election loss by Trump — trying to invalidate Biden votes in closely contested states, challenging mailed ballots, deploying federal forces to intimidate election officials, facilitating unrest by Trump supporters and whatever else might cause confusion and doubt about the outcome.
Barr has violated his sacred oath and dishonored his high office. Rather than serving the people of this great nation, he has followed the footsteps of his disgraced predecessor, John Mitchell, and may likewise end up serving time.
Jim Jones is a former Idaho attorney general and a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice. His previous columns can be found at JJCommonTater.com.