AG Barr Slammed For 'Weaponizing' DOJ Ahead Of Election

Law360 (October 1, 2020, 10:52 PM EDT) -- Former employees of the U.S. Department of Justice accused Attorney General William Barr of "weaponizing" the agency ahead of November's general election, saying Thursday that the DOJ chief seems to be trying to tilt the scales in favor of President Donald Trump.

The open letter signed by more than 1,600 former DOJ workers highlighted several aspects of Barr's recent conduct that they said were suggestive of an intention "to use the DOJ's vast law enforcement powers to undermine our most fundamental democratic value: free and fair elections."

The group cited "false statements about the security of mail-in voting" as well as "a premature and improper announcement of a mail-in ballot tampering investigation that the White House immediately used as a talking point in its campaign to discredit mail-in voting and to further the claim it will be rigged against President Trump."

Additionally, the group expressed concern that Barr had violated the so-called "60-day rule," an unwritten policy against taking public actions that could affect an election within two months of the vote.

"Based on Attorney General Barr's public statements and other evidence, it appears that he will use the ongoing inquiry into the origins of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election — known as the 'Durham investigation' after John Durham, the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut tapped by Barr to lead it — to help President Trump's reelection chances," they said.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The same group had spoken out against Barr earlier this year, calling for his resignation in the wake of the DOJ's controversial move to dismiss a criminal case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A previous, similar letter calling for Barr's resignation was published in the wake of the DOJ's decision in February to seek sentencing leniency for another close Trump ally, Roger Stone, shortly after the president criticized an earlier, stiffer sentencing proposal put forth by government prosecutors. Trump later commuted Stone's sentence.

The former DOJ workers aren't the only ones leveling accusations of improper political interference against Barr.

In a July hearing, the attorney general engaged in a shouting match while facing brutal questioning from House Democrats, denying claims he was politicizing the DOJ to boost Trump's reelection bid and that he gave special leniency to Trump allies charged in the Russia probe, which he called a "bogus 'Russiagate' scandal."

Barr, who repeatedly characterized himself as a defender of the rule of law to restore order, told lawmakers he has "complete freedom to do what I feel is right" and that all of the decisions he made on criminal matters at the DOJ have been his own. He asserted that Stone and Flynn did not get any special favors from the department but insisted "some intervention was necessary" in both cases because the men were treated unfairly to an extent.

--Additional reporting by Khorri Atkinson. Editing by Michael Watanabe.

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