Trump's new attorney general won't recuse himself from Russia probe


William Barr doesn't see any reason to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation even though he is utterly ethically compromised.

It's official: Trump's newly confirmed attorney general, William Barr, will not recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

This should come as no surprise, given that Trump got rid of Jeff Sessions in large part because Sessions had recused himself from overseeing the probe — after he "forgot" to disclose a number of contacts with Russia during the 2016 election.

There was no way that Trump was going to replace Sessions with someone who would also recuse.

Barr, arguably, is even worse than Sessions in terms of entanglements that warrant recusal. Before taking office, Barr admitted discussing the Mueller probe with Mike Pence. Pence is represented by a counsel — a criminal lawyer — for his interactions with the special counsel investigation.

Worse, Trump actually tried to hire Barr to defend him in the Russia probe. And then there's the matter of the unsolicited 19-page memo Barr sent to the Department of Justice in 2018. In that memo, he explained that he doesn't think Trump can be investigated for obstruction of justice because presidents have the authority to fire someone for any reason, and that therefore the investigation was "fatally flawed."

Even during his confirmation hearing, Barr refused to agree to release the whole of the Mueller report once the investigation is finished. Instead, he's vaguely pledged that his goal "will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law."

Besides the matter of the Mueller investigation, it's always been obvious that Barr was chosen for his utter loyalty to all things Trump. He thinks the border wall is a great idea. He believes that Hillary Clinton should be investigated over the Uranium One deal, a right-wing fever-dream conspiracy theory that has been repeatedly debunked. He seems likely to join Trump in a war on the press, saying there are situations where he would jail reporters.

Perhaps most important to Trump, besides his willingness to likely bury the Mueller report, is that Barr holds an incredibly broad view of executive power. He's a backer of the concept of a "unitary executive." Under that theory, presidents are relatively unfettered by checks and balances, and can use executive orders and decrees to get around Congress and enact policies without legislative buy-in. That view also says that Congress should only have limited ways to control a president's use of executive power.

With this refusal to recuse, Barr is showing us who he is. He's not, as he insisted at his confirmation hearing, a believer in the rule of law. He's a believer in the rule of Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.