Tag: Barr

Barr Violated Election Law, Ethics Groups Say in Call to Impeach

(Bloomberg) — Two groups promoting ethics in government called for the impeachment of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, accusing him of violating laws and undermining public confidence in the Justice Department.

Barr has used the department to further President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, a bipartisan group of lawyers from the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington wrote in a report released Monday, three weeks ahead of U.S. elections.

a man in glasses looking at the camera: NYC Bar Association Asks Congress to Investigate AG Barr for Bias

© Bloomberg
NYC Bar Association Asks Congress to Investigate AG Barr for Bias

William Barr

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The authors warned that Barr’s appointment of U.S. Attorney John Durham to review the origins of the Russia investigation, and Barr’s willingness to discuss the investigation in news interviews, point to efforts to create a politically orchestrated “October surprise.” Such actions could violate the Hatch Act, which forbids government officials from using their offices to support a particular candidate in an election, they wrote.

The authors, some of whom held top legal and ethics posts in previous Republican and Democratic administrations, are the latest to raise concerns that Barr is pursuing an agenda of partisan politics and selective law enforcement. Earlier this month, 1,600 former Justice Department officials signed an open letter criticizing what they called Barr’s willingness to use the department to support Trump’s re-election effort. Although the Justice Department has traditionally kept live investigations under wraps, it recently advised prosecutors they could publicize investigations into election issues, including alleged ballot fraud.

“The working group came to the reluctant conclusion that Attorney General Barr is using the powers of the Department as a vehicle for supporting the political objectives of President Donald Trump,” they wrote. “It appears that the Department has transitioned from one that is subject to law, to become one that instead views the application of law as politically discretionary; moving from rule of law to rule by law.”

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barr has defended the propriety of the department’s work. Although he has echoed some of Trump’s election-related allegations, he has also come under fire from the president because Durham hasn’t produced bombshell prosecutions. Durham isn’t expected to issue charges or release a report before the election, a Justice Department official has said.

The Durham investigation is one of eight areas in which Barr’s conduct appeared to contradict the presumption that the Justice Department enforces the nation’s laws fairly and without political influence, the group said. In nearly 300 pages, they spelled out actions they said violated not only the Hatch Act but also obstruction of justice laws.

They focused on areas in which Barr’s conduct sparked widespread criticism, including the way in which they said he “intentionally mischaracterized” Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report when he presented it to the American public. They looked at Barr’s assignment of several U.S. attorneys, including Durham, to conduct counter-investigations that the report says are “designed to discredit” the

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Warren, Durbin letter to Barr slams BOP’s coronavirus containment efforts

Federal prisoners, corrections staff, government inspectors and civil rights advocates have complained for months that the BOP’s strategies, when useful, are inconsistently applied. The overall inadequate response is leaving a vulnerable population at risk of infection and creating major vectors for transmission more than seven months into the pandemic. Since the start of the outbreak, more than 17,000 federal prisoners and staffers have tested positive and more than 130 have died.

“This is mounting evidence that efforts to contain the virus within BOP facilities are failing,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote to Barr and Carvajal in one of the Oct. 2 letters, which were viewed by The Washington Post.

The letters capture Democratic lawmakers’ mounting frustrations with Barr and Carvajal, who, since March, have reportedly ignored lawmakers’ concerns, like the ones raised in the October letter.

Though incarceration rates have slowed in recent years, prison overcrowding remains an issue in the federal system. The combination of overcrowding, chronic staffing shortages and aging facilities makes prison facilities particularly ill-equipped to adapt to social distancing, ventilation, sanitation and other health guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, according to prisoners, staffers and inmate advocates.

The Post previously reported that prison staff have raised concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment and unsafe workplace conditions — issues that have prompted federal employees to sue the government. According to reports by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General on federal corrections facilities nationwide, persistent staffing shortage has triggered regular lockdowns during the pandemic in which prisoners aren’t allowed out of their cells, are often unable to shower and face more restrictions than if they were in solitary confinement.

“We’ve officially been on a quarantine lockdown since April 1 and haven’t been outdoors despite CDC’s recommendation to get as much fresh air as possible,” a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Complex Coleman facility in central Florida told The Post in an Oct. 2 message. “The windows don’t open and there’s no ventilation to filter in fresh air.”

The prisoner, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said few in his unit of more than 160 people have been approved for compassionate release; between coronavirus-related compassionate release and the First Step Act — the 2018 criminal justice reform law that generally expanded prisoner eligibility for compassionate release — he estimated that four to six people have been released since the pandemic took hold.

The prisoner described those in his unit as mostly middle-aged men who have underlying or preexisting conditions that would make them eligible for relief under the order that Barr signed in March that would allow more prisoners to finish their sentences at home to ease their social distancing and health-care challenges.

Within weeks of the statement, the Department of Justice repeatedly changed the eligibility criteria.

Durbin and Warren wrote that despite Barr’s direction, the BOP has transferred only “about four

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Barr blasted by federal judge for lacking diversity on panel studying law enforcement

A federal judge last week blocked a Justice Department commission studying issues plaguing the law enforcement community from releasing its report because the panel excluded civil-rights leaders.

U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that the much-ballyhooed Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires government committees to receive input from “fairly balanced” viewpoints.

Judge Bates, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in his 45-page opinion that the commission was full of law enforcement officials, but none of the members have “a criminal defense, civil rights, or community organization background.”

The judge also scolded the Justice Department for holding closed-door meetings and failing to notify the public when meetings would take place. So far, the commission has held more than 20 meetings, according to Judge Bates’ opinion.

“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience, examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” he wrote.

The commission was expected to release its report later this month, ahead of the 2020 presidential election. President Trump has made law enforcement and public safety one of the central themes of his reelection campaign.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed the lawsuit earlier this year seeking more diversity on the commission. Attorney General William P. Barr and the Justice Department were both named as defendants.

Justice Department lawyers had argued that the commission was not subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Department, but did not challenge claims it would run afoul of the law, if applicable.

Judge Bates ruled that the LDF had suffered an injury because its voice was denied access to the commission. He ordered both parties to submit additional briefs on how to ensure the commission has a “fairly balanced” membership.

“Because Attorney General Barr appointed the Commissioners at the same time as establishing the Commission, and only selected from those with law enforcement backgrounds, it does not appear that LDF and its representatives had an opportunity to formally apply for Commission membership,” Judge Bates wrote.

Mr. Barr unveiled the commission in January, following an executive order in October 2019. It is tasked with studying mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse and other issues that impact law enforcement efforts to reduce crime.

At the time, the Justice Department said the panel would explore “modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of the American people to reduce crime.”

All of the commission’s 18 members work in law enforcement, and no defense attorneys, civil rights organizations or academics were included. The commission has 15 working groups, but they are largely made up of police officials or prosecutors.

Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director-counsel, hailed the decision as “an important step in the right direction.”

“The country has been demanding accountability for police

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1,612 DOJ Alumni Warn Bill Barr Will Use Law Enforcement Powers to Undermine Free and Fair Elections

U.S. Attorney General William Barr could attempt to influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, according to allegations made in an open letter from 1,612 former members of the Department of Justice.

Barr has claimed that this year’s election results could be tallied incorrectly because of the prevalence of mail-in ballots. In September, Barr said that the mail-in ballots could be highly susceptible to fraud. Barr has also said that foreign entities, such as the Russian government, could forge ballots and send them in which could cause election results to be unfairly unbalanced.

In the letter, the DOJ alumni cited a fear that Barr “intends to use the DOJ’s vast law enforcement powers to undermine our most fundamental democratic value: free and fair elections. He has signalled this intention in myriad ways, from making false statements about the security of mail-in voting from foreign hackers to falsely suggesting that mail-in ballots are subject to widespread fraud and coercion.”

Newsweek reached out to the DOJ for comment.

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Both Barr and Trump have condemned the practice of widespread mail-in voting. In a September interview with CNN, Barr said that the use of mail-in ballots was “reckless and dangerous.”

Trump has attempted to delineate between mail-in voting and absentee voting, a process Trump himself claims to use.

william barr
Former members of the U.S. Department of Justice are concerned that Attorney General William Barr may be attempting to undermine this year’s presidential elections.
Oliver Contreras/AFP/Getty

“I’m an absentee voter because I can’t be in Florida because I’m in Washington,” Trump said at a July press conference. “I’m at the White House, so I’ll be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters, and it works.”

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According to Trump, mail-in ballots are different because they are sent to people who did not request them. Trump cited California as an example where “tens of millions” of ballots are expected to be sent out.

All registered voters in California are expected to receive mail-in ballots because of the threat of community spread coronavirus at polling places. However, if an individual chooses to vote in person, they must take their mail-in ballot with them as verification that they did not vote twice.

Barr has also expressed concerns in a September interview with CNN that states could receive ballots that have been counterfeited “either by someone here or someone overseas.”

When asked by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer if the DOJ had received any reports of such ballots, Barr said, “No. But most things can be counterfeited.”

In response to Trump’s social media posts about the dangers of mail-in voting, Twitter placed a fact-checking link on some of Trump’s tweets. Upon clicking the link, Twitter users are taken to a page with the headline, “Voting by mail is legal and safe, experts and data confirm.”

In a corporate blog post published in September, Twitter said it would either label or remove “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence

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Judge halts Trump and Barr law enforcement report, citing commission’s lack of diversity

A federal judge’s ruling on Thursday stopped next month’s expected release of a report from a presidential commission created to study American law enforcement. Judge John Bates ruled that the commission, comprised solely of current and former law enforcement officials, lacked the diversity necessary to address issues plaguing policing. 

None of the 18 commissioners appointed to “study a broad range of issues regarding law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” and then make recommendations to the president through the report, have any background in “criminal defense, civil rights, or community organization,” Bates noted in his decision. 

“Especially in 2020,” Bates wrote, “when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today.”

The court ruled in favor of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), which brought a lawsuit against both the commission and Attorney General William Barr. LDF argued that the government had violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which requires transparency and “fairly balanced” membership on advisory committees. LDF alleged that it was “denied access to representation on the Commission,” by the government, and did not have an opportunity to formally apply for Commission membership.

Bates concluded that the government did not satisfy the obligations of “forming and conducting a commission in 2020 to examine the sensitive and important issues affecting American law enforcement and the communities they serve.” The court thereby ordered that “Commission proceedings be halted — and no work product released — until the requirements of FACA are satisfied.”

“Any federal committee designed to make recommendations about law enforcement must include representation from people and communities impacted by police violence, civil rights organizations, the criminal defense bar, and other stakeholders,” Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, said in a statement following Bates’ decision. 

Barr established the “Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice” in January, following an October executive order from President Trump. 

Months later, George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparking a mass call for reform. Over the following three months, from May 26 to August 31, police continued to kill Black men and women at disproportionate rates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black people make up roughly 13.4% of the U.S. population — but they accounted for about 20% of people killed by police during that time period. 

In announcing the commission in January, Barr wrote that the “most troubling” issue facing police is the “continued lack of trust and respect for law enforcement that persists in many communities.” Adding, “So while it is important that we always strive to better our police, police also deserve better from us. Nobody wins when law enforcement do not have the trust of the people they protect.”

Barr noted that

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