Donald Trump’s attorney general has a novel perspective on the Department of Justice: That political influence in prosecution is a feature, not a bug.
William Barr reportedly asked prosecutors to explore criminal charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing a police-free zone during civil unrest in her city. If true, this conduct would be an astonishing abuse of power against a local Democratic official who has been at odds with Trump over strategies for handling COVID-19 and civil unrest. Barr has also reportedly suggested to prosecutors that they consider charging protestors with sedition, a crime that is rarely charged because of free speech concerns.
The attorney general’s embrace of politics — jarring to those of us who have worked for a department that prides itself on its independence from politics — was on display during an interview Monday, when he said that our country could become “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” if President Trump were not re-elected. And in the scathing and disingenuous speech he gave Wednesday to mark Constitution Day by denouncing states’ coronavirus restrictions as the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in American history “other than slavery” and pronouncing that “the Attorney General, senior DOJ officials, and U.S. Attorneys are indeed political. But they are political in a good and necessary sense.” Those are words no honest prosecutor will ever hang on their wall.