|77th & 85th Attorney General of the United States|
From: February 14, 2019 - present
William P. Barr was an ineffective Attorney General under President Donald Trump until Barr announced on December 14, 2020 that he would resign before Christmas. He previously served in the same position under George H.W. Bush.
Barr donated $55,000 to establishment candidate Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential election, but after Trump became the nominee, Barr donated only $2,700. He was on the board of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, between 2009 and 2018, and he thus supported its merger with AT&T when conservatives and the Trump Administration opposed it.
When President Trump nominated Barr to be his attorney general, some liberals praised Barr, calling him "mainstream conservative" and "less ideologically extreme" than the conservative Jeff Sessions. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was forced to resign from the Senate Intelligence Committee for leaking information related to the Mena/Contra operation in 1987, was an enthusiastic supporter. Bush DOJ official Stuart Gerson called Barr and Bob Mueller "folks of the establishment." Barr is personal friends with Mueller, leading to questions of whether he would do anything to stop overreach by Mueller.
When he was Attorney General in the Bush Administration, Barr took actions to crack down on illegal immigration. However, it should be noted that the Administration was trying to fend off Pat Buchanan's primary challenge at the time, and his actions happened at a time when even liberal Democrats claimed to support tough border security. However, Barr opposed building border barriers across the entire border with Mexico.
Barbara K. Olson speech
- See also: Atheist deification of politics
Speaking at the 19th Annual Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture at the Federalist Society Barr noted,
Immediately after President Trump won election, opponents inaugurated what they called “The Resistance,” and they rallied around an explicit strategy of using every tool and maneuver available to sabotage the functioning of his Administration. Now, “resistance” is the language used to describe insurgency against rule imposed by an occupying military power. It obviously connotes that the government is not legitimate. This is a very dangerous – indeed incendiary – notion to import into the politics of a democratic republic. What it means is that, instead of viewing themselves as the “loyal opposition,” as opposing parties have done in the past, they essentially see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government.
A prime example of this is the Senate’s unprecedented abuse of the advice-and-consent process. The Senate is free to exercise that power to reject unqualified nominees, but that power was never intended to allow the Senate to systematically oppose and draw out the approval process for every appointee so as to prevent the President from building a functional government.
Yet that is precisely what the Senate minority has done from his very first days in office. As of September of this year (2019), the Senate had been forced to invoke cloture on 236 Trump nominees — each of those representing its own massive consumption of legislative time meant only to delay an inevitable confirmation. How many times was cloture invoked on nominees during President Obama’s first term? 17 times. The Second President Bush’s first term? Four times. It is reasonable to wonder whether a future President will actually be able to form a functioning administration if his or her party does not hold the Senate.
Congress has in recent years also largely abdicated its core function of legislating on the most pressing issues facing the national government. They either decline to legislate on major questions or, if they do, punt the most difficult and critical issues by making broad delegations to a modern administrative state that they increasingly seek to insulate from Presidential control. This phenomenon first arose in the wake of the Great Depression, as Congress created a number of so-called “independent agencies” and housed them, at least nominally, in the Executive Branch. More recently, the Dodd-Frank Act’s creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Branch, a single-headed independent agency that functions like a junior varsity President for economic regulation, is just one of many examples.
Of course, Congress’s effective withdrawal from the business of legislating leaves it with a lot of time for other pursuits. And the pursuit of choice, particularly for the opposition party, has been to drown the Executive Branch with “oversight” demands for testimony and documents. I do not deny that Congress has some implied authority to conduct oversight as an incident to its Legislative Power. But the sheer volume of what we see today – the pursuit of scores of parallel “investigations” through an avalanche of subpoenas – is plainly designed to incapacitate the Executive Branch, and indeed is touted as such.
The costs of this constant harassment are real. For example, we all understand that confidential communications and a private, internal deliberative process are essential for all of our branches of government to properly function. Congress and the Judiciary know this well, as both have taken great pains to shield their own internal communications from public inspection. There is no FOIA for Congress or the Courts. Yet Congress has happily created a regime that allows the public to seek whatever documents it wants from the Executive Branch at the same time that individual congressional committees spend their days trying to publicize the Executive’s internal decisional process. That process cannot function properly if it is public, nor is it productive to have our government devoting enormous resources to squabbling about what becomes public and when, rather than doing the work of the people.
In recent years, we have seen substantial encroachment by Congress in the area of executive privilege. The Executive Branch and the Supreme Court have long recognized that the need for confidentiality in Executive Branch decision-making necessarily means that some communications must remain off limits to Congress and the public. There was a time when Congress respected this important principle as well. But today, Congress is increasingly quick to dismiss good-faith attempts to protect Executive Branch equities, labeling such efforts “obstruction of Congress” and holding Cabinet Secretaries in contempt.
One of the ironies of today is that those who oppose this President constantly accuse this Administration of “shredding” constitutional norms and waging a war on the rule of law. When I ask my friends on the other side, what exactly are you referring to? I get vacuous stares, followed by sputtering about the Travel Ban or some such thing. While the President has certainly thrown out the traditional Beltway playbook, he was upfront about that beforehand, and the people voted for him. What I am talking about today are fundamental constitutional precepts. The fact is that this Administration’s policy initiatives and proposed rules, including the Travel Ban, have transgressed neither constitutional, nor traditional, norms, and have been amply supported by the law and patiently litigated through the Court system to vindication.
Indeed, measures undertaken by this Administration seem a bit tame when compared to some of the unprecedented steps taken by the Obama Administration’s aggressive exercises of Executive power – such as, under its DACA program, refusing to enforce broad swathes of immigration law.
The fact of the matter is that, in waging a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of “Resistance” against this Administration, it is the Left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law. This highlights a basic disadvantage that conservatives have always had in contesting the political issues of the day. It was adverted to by the old, curmudgeonly Federalist, Fisher Ames, in an essay during the early years of the Republic.
In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion. Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications. They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.
Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise. We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing. This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard. The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances?For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means. And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.
Elsewhere Barr stated
I feel today religion is being driven out of the marketplace of ideas and there’s a organized militant secular effort to drive religion out of our lives....To me the problem today is not that religious people are trying to impose their views on nonreligious people, it’s the opposite — it’s that militant secularists are trying to impose their values on religious people and they’re not accommodating the freedom of religion of people of faith.
George H.W. Bush administration
Prior to his appointment as Attorney General, Barr served as Chief Counsel for the CIA airline Southern Air Transport during Iran Contra. Robert Mueller served as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division during Barr's tenure.
In December 1991, Attorney General Barr announced that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) had entered a guilty plea to certain racketeering charges, in return for which the U.S. Justice Department agreed to drop all other federal and state charges that might be brought against BCCI entities in the future. In the plea-bargain arrangement, BCCI forfeited all of its estimated $550 million assets in the United States, and there were some minor jail sentences.
The total lack of security at the Mena airport and intelligence professionalism was why the CIA wanted out of Arkansas. The final loose end that needed to be tied up was the investigation of Gov. Bill Clinton's half-brother, Roger and his friends. Barr told Bill Clinton:
We are all in this together and let's not forget that the vice-president [George H.W. Bush] and Mr. Casey want this operation to be a success. Mr. Seal carried with him a falsely created, high-level profile of a drug runner. All of the cops in the country were investigating a drug operation. They put the police into a position where we could control them. We fed them what we wanted to feed them, when we wanted to feed them. Seal was a diversion. It was perfect until your brother started free enterprising and now we have to shut it down.
It was the arrests of Roger Clinton and Dan Lasater - not the Hasenfus shoot-down months later - that threatened to expose the operation and prompted the CIA to end it. Barr said of the money investigation,
Mr. Meese is intervening right now and there will be no money investigation. The United States Attorney's Office in Little Rock is 'getting religion' as we speak.
Gov. Clinton's reputation as a cad did not go unnoticed by the CIA. Barr ended the meeting with words of encouragement.
Bill, you are Mr. [Willaim J.] Casey's fair-haired boy ... You and your state have been our greatest asset. Mr. Casey wanted me to pass on to you that unless you ****up and do something stupid, you're No. 1 on the short list for a shot at the job that you've always wanted. You and guys like you are the fathers of the new government. We are the new covenant.
- Farivar, Masood (December 7, 2018). Trump's Justice Department Pick Has Criticized Special Counsel Probes. Voice of America. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
- Vazquez, Maegan; Collins, Kaitlan (December 7, 2018). Trump nominates William Barr to be his next attorney general. CNN. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
- Kim, Ellis (December 7, 2018). 4 Things to Know About William Barr, Trump's Pick to Replace Jeff Sessions. The National Law Journal. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
- Ballhaus, Rebecca; Gurman, Sadie; Viswanatha, Aruna (December 7, 2018). Trump Taps William Barr to Be Next Attorney General. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
- Manning, Richard (January 15, 2019). Trump Attorney General nominee Bill Barr – Swamp master or destroyer? Fox News. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
- Multiple references:
- Baumann, Beth (January 16, 2019). Gun Rights Groups: We Object to William Barr Being Confirmed as AG. Townhall. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
- Did Trump Just Nominate a Gun-Grapper for Attorney General? Gun Owners of America. January 15, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
- Jones, Susan (January 16, 2019). William Barr Explains 'The Single Most Important Thing We Can Do in the Gun Control Area'. CNS News. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
- Weingarten, Dean (January 17, 2019). AG Nominee William Barr on Second Amendment During Confirmation Hearings ~ VIDEO. Ammoland. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
- New Attorney General Nominee William Barr’s Record on Guns Revealed. The Truth About Guns. December 8, 2018. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
- Binder, John (December 7, 2018). William Barr Prioritized Illegal Immigration Crackdown in 1990s–Similar to Sessions. Breitbart News. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
- Arthur, Andrew R. (December 11, 2018). The Once (and Future?) AG William Barr on Immigration. Center for Immigration Studies. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
- Donachie, Robert (December 12, 2018). William Barr, Trump's pick as attorney general, is an immigration hardliner. Washington Examiner. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
- Trump’s pick for AG once questioned value of border wall. Politico (from the Associated Press). December 31, 2018. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
- Pappas, Alex; Singman, Brooke (February 14, 2019). William Barr confirmed by Senate for attorney general. Fox News. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
- Moran, Sean (February 14, 2019). Senate Confirms William Barr to Become Attorney General. Breitbart News. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
- Terry Reed & John Cummings, Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA, Shapolsky Publishers, 1994
- Terry Reed & John Cummings, Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA, Shapolsky Publishers, 1994
- William P. Barr Oral History, GEORGE H. W. BUSH PRESIDENCY, Miller Center.