Don’t Hate Bill Barr’s Commitment To The Rule Of Law

Don’t Hate Bill Barr’s Commitment To The Rule Of Law

William Barr’s resignation letter demonstrates the attorney general ended his service to our country with the same dedication and integrity he showcased over the last year.
Margot Cleveland
By

Late Monday, President Trump announced Attorney General William Barr’s resignation, effective Dec. 23, 2020. The announcement followed a deluge of criticism from Trump supporters about Barr’s handling of the investigation into Crossfire Hurricane and the Department of Justice’s silence about the investigation into Hunter Biden.

But Barr’s resignation letter, posted by Trump on Twitter, demonstrates the attorney general ended his service to the president and our country with the same dedication and integrity that he showcased over the last year. During that time, Barr faced the daunting task of investigating Crossfire Hurricane’s targeting of the Trump campaign, then Trump transition team and Trump administration—the second-worst political scandal in American history, surpassed only by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s fraudulent investigation into the Trump team and supposed Russia collusion.

But you don’t return our great country to the rule of law by replicating the left’s abuse of power. And you don’t right the scales of justice with revenge. Yet, with Joe Biden maintaining his hold on the Electoral College votes necessary to oust Trump, some conservatives and many Trump supporters are demanding both and wrongly condemning Barr for delivering neither.

Justice Needs to Be Untainted by Politics

The attacks on Barr from some on the right hit two points: Barr failed in his promises to get to the bottom of the Spygate scandal and kept mum about the FBI’s investigation into Hunter Biden. Had Barr acted on both—or either—fronts before Nov. 3, 2020, Trump would have sailed to reelection, critics of the attorney general argue.

Barr’s job, however, was not to get Trump re-elected. His job as the top law enforcement officer of the country is to ensure that the laws are equally and fairly applied and that the Department of Justice seeks justice—without favor and without prejudice.

Sometimes the path to justice is a long and arduous one. Such is the case in the unraveling of the Spygate scandal. If we truly want justice for Trump and the other innocents swept up in the scandal, and if we truly want to ensure that never again will the intelligence and law enforcement communities target a political enemy, all the threads of complicity must be carefully unraveled, both to obtain the truth and to develop an unbreakable legal case against the guilty.

Those faulting Barr for failing to move more quickly expose naivety about the complexities of the case: Spygate involved not merely a few rogue actors but flowed from the complicity or willful neglect of many high-level officials in multiple agencies, as well as the vast majority of Mueller’s team.

Confidential human sources, such as Stephan Halper; private actors, such as Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson; and entities such as Fusion GPS, the Democratic National Committee, and corporate media outlets on the receiving end of illegal leaks all played a part in the scandal. Spygate’s tentacles also reached international allies and foes alike, including England, Italy, Greece, Australia, and Russia, implicating both national security concerns and America’s delicate relationship with other governments.

So, yes, the investigation has dragged on, but with good reason, beyond the unexpected delays caused by COVID. Yet Barr’s critics pooh pooh the reasons for the delay and posit that the lack of a more concrete comeuppance to date is damning of Barr.

Barr Is Neither a Trump Hack nor Anti-Trump Hack

Roger Simon took that tack in “The Tragic Failure of William Barr,” but rather than exposing a blot on Barr’s character, the article reflects poorly on Simon and The Epoch Times that published the article: Not content with complaining about the delays, Simon suggests the pandemic served as put a pretext to slow-walk the investigation. Why? Maybe because Barr was “too angry at Donald Trump for meddling in his affairs,” Simon suggests.

The rhetorical innuendos peppered throughout the article cannot withstand scrutiny. Since his confirmation as attorney general, Barr has proven himself driven by one thing only: justice. Barr spoke out where appropriate, such as during hearings on Capitol Hill; he called spying “spying”; and he expanded the investigations when merited.

Announcements also came when needed, such as following the release of the inspector general’s report, when Barr publicly expressed disagreement with Michael Horowitz’s conclusion that Crossfire Hurricane was properly predicated.

Additionally, Barr’s team released evidence to Sidney Powell that had been improperly withheld from her client, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Of note, these releases came before U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen completed his investigation, and before the DOJ filed a motion to dismiss the Flynn case, demonstrating the attorney general went public when justice required the early release of information. In the Flynn case, that meant providing Flynn’s legal team the relevant evidence before additional proceedings might occur.

Barr also spoke publicly about some of this evidence to counter the false narrative pushed by some of the wrongdoers, such as since-fired FBI Director James Comey. In an interview with Mark Levin, Barr noted that the evidence discovered by Jensen “showed clearly that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not think he was lying.”

He added, “This was later minimized in testimony as suggesting ‘Well, they meant he didn’t break out into sweat and his eye pupils didn’t contract, that’s all they were saying.’” “No,” Barr stressed, “They were saying he didn’t believe he thought he was lying at the time.”

The DOJ continued to release more evidence to Powell as Jensen’s investigation continued, including a summary of the interview of FBI Agent William Barnett, who told Jensen that “the Special Counsel Office pursued Flynn simply as a means to ‘get Trump.’” Barnett’s full statement holds implications much beyond the Flynn case, but there is no legitimate reason to release additional details at this point.

We know this because Barr has shown that when a case is ready, the evidence is forthcoming. Such was the case with the handling of the criminal case against Kevin Clinesmith, an attorney in the FBI’s Office of General Counsel.

On a Need-to-Know Basis in Service of Justice

In August, once the DOJ obtained a plea agreement with Clinesmith for his crime of altering an email to obtain a renewal of the court surveillance order on Carter Page, the plea was made public. Surely Barr’s team had evidence of this crime long before, but no valid purpose would be served by its release prior to the filing of an indictment, or here the plea agreement.

Likewise, the country had no need to know that Barr had named Durham a special counsel in October, and by withholding this news, Barr ensured it could not inappropriately affect the presidential election. Once voting ended, Barr let America know of Durham’s status. The timing of the appointment proved Barr acted not from vindictiveness but from a desire to guarantee the investigation continued to its natural conclusion.

Barr also had no valid reason to release information about the investigation into Hunter Biden. And those condemning Barr for remaining mum while the press buried the story that would have buried Biden fail to see that they are demanding of Barr what they condemned in the Obama-Biden administration.

The rule of law must not bend to the benefit of anyone. Barr knows this, and has withstood serial attempts to force his ouster, either temporarily via recusal or permanently by calls for his resignation or impeachment. Barr is neither coward nor has moderated his response, and for that he deserves our respect.

Likewise, Barr’s refusal to tolerate leaks, politicize the Hunter Biden investigation, or make an imprudent rush of the SpyGate probe is worthy of praise from both sides of the aisle. Given the left and corporate media’s performance over the last four years, their silence does not surprise me. I am surprised and saddened, however, by the cacophony of complaints from those clamoring for a return to the rule of law.

Barr has given that to us over the last year, but it seems that is not what some on the right wanted after all. Well, if they wanted Barr’s ouster, they now have it. But Barr’s resignation will right no wrongs. His legacy, though, in a return to the rule of law, will—along with Durham’s continuing special counsel investigation.

Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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