William Barr

Wish a Not-So-Fond Farewell to Outgoing Attorney General William Barr

His Trump toadying was absolutely awful, but still not nearly as bad as his unremittingly harsh approach to justice and policing.

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Attorney General William Barr will be going home for Christmas, and not returning.

President Donald Trump dropped the news (as he has done with many resignations and terminations during his term) on Twitter, attaching to the tweet an almost comically fawning resignation letter from Barr.

Of course, it's normal for outgoing government officials to praise their (almost) ex-bosses and brag about what they've accomplished. But Barr's comically off-topic obsequious gushing is directed right at Trump's hungering ego: "Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance. Your 2016 victory speech in which you reached out to opponents and called for working together for the benefit of the American people was immediately met by a partisan onslaught against you in which no tactic, no matter how abusive or deceitful, was out of bounds."

The letter goes on like this for another paragraph, entirely about Trump's accomplishments, before very vaguely mentioning what the Justice Department did under Barr, fighting the drug war and Mexican cartels and supporting "the men and women of law enforcement who selflessly—and too often thanklessly—risk their lives to keep communities safe."

Barr's last-minute exit, less than a month before Trump's presidency ends, is likely a reflection that even his most ardent supporter in the White House was unable to appease Trump and humor his fantasies that the election results are fraudulent and that he actually won a second term. The last straw was most likely the discovery that Barr had not disclosed to the public prior to the election that the Justice Department was investigating President-elect Joe Biden's son Hunter for possible tax evasion. There is an amusing irony here: The decision by former FBI Director James Comey to hold a press conference to discuss the investigation of Hillary Clinton just days before the 2016 election, which contradicted typical Justice Department protocol, was used by Trump as one of the reasons to terminate Comey. It's almost as though Trump does not actually care about proper ethics or procedures except to the extent that he gets whatever it is he wants.

Barr will most likely be remembered for running interference for Trump, describing Robert Mueller's special investigation of Russian influence on the Trump campaign as having cleared the president. In reality, Mueller's investigation report was quite clear that if Trump had not been the president, he probably would have been facing obstruction of justice charges.

It's unfortunate, truly, that Barr will be remembered mostly as Trump's craven pet because the rest of Barr's actual record as attorney general is even more worthy of scorn. Barr opposes marijuana legalization. He said he was willing to allow states to make their own decisions on marijuana legalization, but then his office launched a bunch of antitrust investigations targeting cannabis companies.

As America went through a summer of anger, protests, and violence about police abuse of minorities, Barr not only habitually took the side of police, but also basically told Americans to just shut up and do what they're told. He warned in a speech that if citizens didn't bend the knee to police, "they might find themselves without the police protection that they need." In speeches, he embraced the "warrior cop" mentality and complained in a speech at a Fraternal Order of Police conference in 2019 that, "Not too long ago influential public voices—whether in the media or among community and civic leaders—stressed the need to comply with police commands, even if one thinks they are unjust." He was mad that those days were gone and insisted that anybody who resists the police should be prosecuted, even if the police conduct was in the wrong.

Barr opposes legislation that would weaken "qualified immunity," which in many cases protects police officers from being sued when they knowingly violate citizens' rights, stating, "Qualified immunity provides breathing space for officers to do their jobs without fear that an inadvertent or unpredictable error will subject them to financial ruin. Without qualified immunity officers would be deterred from going into risky situations that are necessary to save lives."

In reality, qualified immunity has protected violent and criminal behavior by police that would have landed any of the rest of us in jail and gotten us sued. It has been used to shield police from civil responsibility for some of the most egregious violations of civil liberties you can imagine.

Finally, Barr should be remembered for his decision to fire up the mechanism of federal executions and putting (so far) 10 men to death over the course of just six months. The use of the death penalty has been declining year after year in states across the country and several have abandoned it entirely. Americans increasingly oppose its use, though it still has majority support. And violent crime has been largely declining over the past 20 years even though the feds had stopped the practice of executions.

But Barr announced in 2019 that he was reestablishing execution protocols. After fending off legal challenge after legal challenge, he started putting convicted murderers to death. Barr, under Trump, has set a modern record for executions by a single administration. Only three people had been executed at all by the federal government since 1963, all under President George W. Bush. Even after Barr leaves on December 23, there are two men and one woman he has arranged to be executed in the days just before Biden (who now opposes the death penalty) takes office.

Barr's entire tenure as attorney general undercuts any effort by Trump to present himself as a criminal justice reformer. Every fan of liberty should be thrilled that he's leaving a few weeks earlier than the end of Trump's term.

NEXT: The FDA Continues To Drag Its Feet on Vaccine Approval

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  1. Let’s just wait and see how awful the new guy is.

    1. Cuomo?

    2. All three weeks of the new guy.

      1. Maybe as a token of appreciation to the Auburn Boyz, Trump will make Andrew Napolitano his AG and we’ll have to hear from those pseudo-libertarians for the next twenty years about how Trump was the second coming of Ron Paul.

        1. Or we could listen to you spend another 4 years gargling Eric Holder’s balls, either way.

          1. Trolls should at least be superficially believable.

            1. Well, if anyone knows superficial, it would be you.

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    3. It’s all awful, all the way down, into perpetuity.

    4. Weird. I do not remember Reason whining about the toadying of Lynch and Holder.

      1. Luckily for you, Reason gave Holder his own tag to help your memory.

        reason.com/tag/eric-holder/

        1. You’re proving my case there. Read those articles.

          1. Here is what I read. What am I missing?

            “As attorney generals tend to do, he performed the liver function in the body of the Obama administration, filtering out whatever toxic Republican accusations were thrown its way.”

            “Asked after his remarks about whether he would recommend to the White House that President Obama reschedule marijuana, Holder repeated the administration’s deceptive assertion that the executive branch cannot reschedule marijuana on its own.”

            “As the head of the Justice Department, Holder also deserves his share of the blame for the Obama administration’s lousy record at the Supreme Court, which includes unanimous defeats on issues ranging from executive authority and the separation of powers to the Fourth Amendment, the free exercise of religion, due process of law, and the Takings Clause.”

            “Eric Holder is Obama’s Human Shield”

            1. “As attorney generals tend to do, he performed the liver function in the body of the Obama administration, filtering out whatever toxic Republican accusations were thrown its way.”

              Yeah that was brutal.

              1. You don’t understand. In one case the AG was serving his function dutifully, and in the other, he’s a symptom of a larger problem.

                LULZ.

              2. Yeah, I was pretty sure he did not read any of those articles.

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    6. Barr did not prosecute anyone for deliberately lying multiple times to the secret FISA court to obtain warrants to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign.
      He did not do anything to help Trump at all.
      He protected the swamp establishment from any consequences for illegal conduct.

    7. Shitheads.
      Can’t wait for you Reason fucks to roll out the red carpet for the Biden pick for AG: either the deeply horrific Cuomo or some other ninth-tier-credentialed, Left-Fascist mediocrity wielding the “correct” melanin/genitalia/sexual-preference quotient.
      Shitheads.

  2. Yep. Who can forget him allowing thousands of guns to be smuggled into Mexico, and then trying to cover it up when Border Patrol officers were killed with smuggled guns?

    1. I know, right? I mean, if we’re grading on a curve, if Eric Holder deserves an F, then Bill Barr deserves a solid D-. Woohoo! Yay Team Red!

      1. If you have a choice between the D- and the F, it’s sensible to defend the F like a rabid rottweiler, right cytotoxic?

        1. Fuck off, Tulpa.

          1. Go fuck your daughter some more sarcasmic you pathetic drunken piece of lowlife subhuman shit.

        2. If I have a choice between a D- and a F, I say that both candidates have failed and I shouldn’t be defending either one.

          1. Well, I mean, Jerry didn’t defend the D-. Didn’t mention him at all.

          2. You say that inbetween bouts of defending the F which is why nobody takes you seriously and you are roundly considered a pathetic joke, cytotoxic.

            1. He’s almost the worst. Squirrelly gets the nod there.

    2. Didn’t he also block prosecution of financial crimes because of concerns about the collateral damage of going after corporations that are too big to fail?

    3. Whataboutism is an admission that you have no defense against the current accusations.

      1. No. It’s an indication that the concern expressed by the writer seems a bit inconsistent.

      2. Before it went bankrupt, Regal Cinemas projected less than you do sarcasmic.

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    3. I’m curious with all of the mask madness, at what point do the people who have already had the ‘Rona, the 16.6M to date, get to go mask free?
      Will there be a special status for that too? A mark or special bracelet one could wear?

      1. You will be wearing masks until you are told not to.
        NOW IS THE TIME TO DO AS YOU ARE TOLD.

    4. My mask is making my dust allergies worse.

    5. You don’t understand. People are *accidentally* wearing their masks below their noses and mouths. And only most of the time do they pull down their masks to speak.

      Dedicating a $1,000 gadget to nagging about things people already know is the path forward for people who avoid conflict.

  4. Hey, he was better than Sessions. My god did Trump suck at hiring people, other than DeVos

    1. Hope Hicks was a home run.

      1. I know, right? I’d hit it.

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  6. Ok sure whatever. He wasn’t a libertarian toady either. And he stuck it to the democrats right up until it was his time to turn on his boss.

    So congrats you’re all fuck ups at every level.

    1. Notice they don’t give a fuck that he’s been a gun control supporter for 30 years or that he got the FBI snipers who killed the Weavers off the hook. Nope. He was too friendly with Trump, who he completely and totally fucked by smothering the Hunter Biden investigation for 12 months.

  7. Don’t worry Scott I’m sure Beijing Biden will have an AG more to your liking, more in the mold of Janet Reno. I look forward to your covering for the constitutional infringements of the Democrats and their push for ever more Maoist policy.

  8. “harsh approach to justice and policing”

    Fortunately we’re only about a month away from the complete dismantling of draconian Republican “tough on crime” policies. The Biden / Harris Administration will show why it deserves all those Reason staff votes when it implements Koch-friendly policies like #DefundThePolice and #EmptyThePrisons.

    #StopLockingPeopleUp
    #(BecauseThenTheyCantWorkForCharlesKoch)

    1. Democrats will be plenty tough on crime…when it comes to firearms.

  9. With this article, Shackleford confirms for all that he is a petty, preening asshole.

    1. JFC Reason is still doing the Blormph Russia shit.

  10. He covered up the Hunter Biden investigation for you. Isn’t that enough for you to love him?

  11. His Trump toadying was absolutely awful,”
    I quit reading there Barr did nothing for Trump even when requested to look into illegal matter Barr sat back and laughed he is a piece of shit

    1. If that’s true, then I guess Trump is a really bad judge of character.

  12. Fortunately I have very little idea who this guy was and why people were worked up either way about him.

  13. Let us not forget his almost maniacal goal to weaken all data encryption standards by forcing tech companies to create the famed “back door” for government use only!

    This nit wit couldn’t figure out that a “back door” doesn’t come with a special lock that only government can use. It is a weakness that ANYONE (read, nation state hackers) can use.

    With so much of our lives moving to online platforms from medical records to eCommerce and finance and this dummy wanted to deliberately weaken the one thing that makes this possible… strong encryption!

    1. I’m sure whoever Biden picks will put a stop to that…

      Same Goes for the Democrats who control Congress – they’ll surely stand up for the privacy rights of the little guy.

      Or maybe this ‘concern’ like homelessness, or kids in cages, will prove to be somewhat variable.

  14. I guess even for Barr, there is a line that he won’t cross.

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  16. “habitually took the side of police”

    That’s because during the riots the police were usually right.

    I am very firmly anti-police on almost all matters. Even in the beginning of BLM I was on their side. But then they got so batshit crazy it turned even me into a police supporter. You have to be acting like a giant dumbfuck to turn ME into a supporter of the cops.

  17. Calling Barr a trump toady is unfair and unjust. He was a man of integrity who stood up to trump congress and the deep state. He is the one I will actually miss most from this administration.

  18. It’s all relative at this point. Barr was better than Sessions who appeared lost and a relic of the old failed Republican establishment and his predecessor Eric Holder that stoked racism every chance he got.
    Barr was a godsend in comparison.

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