William Barr promises that the criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political purposes. Can he deliver?
The U.S. Attorney General has tried at all costs to maintain an impartial facade in his office –an increasingly uphill task.
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Following President Donald Trump's attempts to coin the term "Obamagate" in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, his Attorney General, William P. Barr, has had to jump into the ring and gently contradict his boss.
In a press conference on Monday, Barr was vehement in clarifying that he does not plan to bring charges against former President Barack Obama or his former vice president, and now presidential candidate, Joe Biden, for his administration's handling of Russian interference during the 2016 elections.
"As long as I'm attorney general, the criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political ends," the attorney general said, assuring that while some aspects are being reviewed, they did not involve the former president.
"Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others," he added.
Since Barr closed the Mueller investigation into the links between the team surrounding Donald Trump during his presidential campaign and Russian intelligence, it has become increasingly challenging to absolve him of political partisanship.
"While Mr. Barr was unwilling to fuel speculation that the Justice Department would target Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, he himself has done perhaps more than any other Trump administration official to undermine the overall credibility of the Russia investigation," the New York Times explained.
"The attorney general's handling of the Russia inquiry has come under fire since he first emphasized its findings last year in a way that was more favorable to Mr. Trump than investigators had found," the media added.
Similarly, Barr has been involved in the clearing of key individuals in the Russian investigation, such as the president's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, despite his two guilty pleas to the FBI.
The Attorney General has also recommended lighter sentences for other allies of the president, such as Roger J. Stone Jr., who was convicted of obstruction of justice.
Also, and as reported in the Washington Post, the attorney general has decided to install Michael R. Sherwin as an associate deputy attorney general in his office in Washington, adding to the criticism of an "even more politicized" attorney's office.
Sherwin was in charge of defending the president's Mar-a-Lago Club last February in the case of an alleged Chinese intruder.
Barr's actions in cases handed off by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's Russia probe and "packing" senior supervisory positions with close associates "seriously undermines the U.S. attorney's office in D.C.'s. . . long-standing reputation for independence from political influence," said Charles R. Work, a former office prosecutor, Republican Justice Department political appointee and president of the D.C. Bar, told the Post.
"This represents a politicization of the U.S. attorney's office of the District of Columbia that is remarkable and unique and unprecedented," said Stuart M. Gerson, a Republican and former Barr aide, who served as acting attorney general briefly under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. "It's a political coup; there really can be no question about it."
That is why more than 1,900 former and current Justice Department officials reiterated their call for Barr to resign for having "once again assaulted the rule of law."
Having collected more than 2,600 signatures in February when Barr requested that Stone's sentence be reduced, those who sign under the name "DOJ Alumni" say they still believe that "it would be best for the integrity of the Justice Department and our democracy for Attorney General Barr to step aside."