The same day William Barr is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Tuesday laid out guidelines for a formal impeachment inquiry into the attorney general to consider possible abuses of the powers of his office.
The government watchdog group in a new report suggests Congress draw from the second article of impeachment faced by President Richard Nixon in 1974 by focusing on whether Barr’s actions have been “seriously incompatible with our system of constitutional government.”
CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement that the Justice Department under Barr “has abandoned its role as the guardian and keeper of the law and its institutional commitment to administering the law free from favor, pressure, and politics.”
Bookbinder accused Barr of “abandoning any semblance of impartiality and instead using the department to protect the president and his interests” and said, “An impeachment inquiry is the only way to put an end to the dangerous path we are on.”
The inquiry should center on—at minimum—four areas. The report says that Barr has:
- Corruptly subverted the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and of President Trump for obstruction of justice;
- Interfered with the lawful functions of the Department of Justice by overturning the actions of career prosecutors in the cases of Roger Stone Jr. and Michael Flynn and by firing United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman;
- Obstructed lawful investigations of the United States House of Representatives; and
- Abused and exceeded the powers of the Attorney General to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.
The final point focuses on the treatment of peaceful racial justice protesters. “On multiple occasions, Barr appears to have given unlawful orders to federal law enforcement to use violent riot control tactics to violate or impair” protesters’ constitutionally protected rights, says the report, pointing to his directive to police to forcefully clear demonstrators in Lafayette Square as one example.
The report frames an impeachment inquiry as “not just a matter of putting an end to his egregious abuses of power” but of “preventing the precedent Barr has set from becoming a model for future attorneys general to emulate. It is about restoring the administration of justice free from favor, pressure, and politics,” the report states.
“In order to fully restore the Justice Department’s impartiality and independence, Congress must confront Barr’sabuses of power,” said Bookbinder. “Barr has proven himself unfit to fulfill the duties he swore to uphold, and only by considering his impeachment can Congress begin to undo the damage he has done to our democratic system.”
Barr’s Monday hearing before Congress was set to begin at 10 am but was delayed until later in the day after committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) was in a car accident.
According to his prepared remarks, Barr will tell that panel that President Donald Trump “has not attempted to interfere” in his decisions and that police departments are not plagued with “deep-seated racism.”