Yeomans: Barr Inserts Politics into DOJ

Press Release


WASHINGTON, D.C., April 2, 2019 – In the latest edition of Yeomans Work, AFJ Senior Justice Fellow Bill Yeomans writes that since “Congress confirmed William Barr as attorney general despite his disqualifying record of enabling presidential misconduct,” nobody should be surprised that he “has already revealed his willingness to elevate the political interests of the president over the traditions of the Department of Justice and the role of Congress.” In just a few short weeks on the job, Yeomans writes, Barr has intervened to spin the conclusions of the Mueller report in Trump’s favor and capitulated to Trump’s demand that the Department of Justice no longer defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Of Barr’s decision to write a memo saying he did not believe the Mueller report provided evidence that Trump obstructed justice, Yeomans writes: “There was no reason for anybody at DOJ to answer the hypothetical question whether the president should be prosecuted. Barr, playing free safety for Team Trump, however, swooped in to intercept Mueller’s pass to Congress and ran it back for a score, which prompted Trump and his entire bench to empty into the end-zone for a round of celebratory taunting.”

Meanwhile, the DOJ under Barr was forced to do an about-face on the ACA. “This filing is a gut-punch to the rule of law,” write Yeomans. “A central norm of the DOJ is that it will defend the constitutionality of a federal statute unless there is no reasonable argument that can be made in support of it…Most disturbing, reporting confirms that the instruction for the change came from Trump, at the urging of acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney. Barr opposed it. Nothing conveys disregard for the rule of law more devastatingly than litigating positions dictated from the Oval Office contrary to legal advice.”

The implications for the future are grim, Yeomans concludes: After all, with Barr so willing to subvert his DOJ to the Trump agenda, can federal investigations of Trump’s political enemies be far behind?

Yeomans Work focuses on the challenges to the justice system in the era of Trump. Bill Yeomans is available for media interviews. Contact Laurie Kinney, Communications Director, at laurie@afj.org or 202-464-7367.