Democrats are furious at Attorney General Bill Barr. They should be. Mr. Barr is trying to tear the deep state up by its roots and expose the delusions of moral superiority that have infected so many in the intelligence and federal law enforcement communities.
A review of Mr. Barr’s tenure shows a laundry list of actions dismantling the trojan horse that Democrats and Never Trump Republicans have set up inside the Department of Justice and the intelligence communities.
Mr. Barr named U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation, which should yield results this summer. He signed off on the dismissal of the tainted Michael Flynn investigation and prosecution, which was recently upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Barr also deemed the initial sentence recommendation for Roger Stone to be excessive. Democrats and the media pounced and cried foul, but the judge in the case agreed that the initial recommendation was “greater than necessary.”
To see an example of Democrats’ desperation, look no further than the “oversight” hearing the House Judiciary held this past week. I put quotes around oversight as this was really a pathetic public relations scam to perpetuate the lie that Mr. Barr is a threat to the rule of law.
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s star witness was former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, who served during the George H.W. Bush administration. Mr. Ayer is frequently mentioned as a “Republican” in news stories about the former Department of Justice employees who have signed letters asking for Bill Barr to resign or protesting the department’s decision to dismiss the Michael Flynn prosecution.
It’s fascinating to see the coverage of these letters by the press, which rarely mentions that the letters are organized by Protect Democracy, a leftist group founded by former Obama officials. The articles about these letters are always sure to mention that former prosecutors from Republican and Democratic administrations have signed — what they fail to explain is that these are former career officials who are supposedly apolitical, but most likely lean Democrat and are not, as the press would have you believe, disaffected Republicans.
As Mr. Ayer is the only “high profile” Republican Democrats seem to be able to get, it’s worth exploring whether Mr. Ayer’s motivation is personal. A modest amount of research shows that Mr. Barr and Mr. Ayer had a very contentious relationship stretching back 30 years.
Mr. Ayer was the deputy attorney general when Mr. Barr was the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. Mr. Ayer ended up resigning after only six months on the job and was replaced by Bill Barr. In discussing Mr. Ayer in his oral history of the Department of Justice in 2001, Mr. Barr said this: “He had a tin ear, he had no political sense, he did stupid things. I thought Thornburgh was actually too patient with him, and to hang on as long as he did was clearly a mistake from day one.”
It should therefore be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism when Mr. Ayer said that, under Mr. Barr, America was “on the way to something far worse than Watergate,” or that Mr. Barr “poses the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law.”
Mr. Ayer clearly has an axe to grind due to his embarrassing departure from DOJ and his replacement by Mr. Barr, who clearly has a strong opinion on Mr. Ayer’s competence and performance as DAG. People need that context when judging Mr. Ayer’s testimony and letter signing forays, but unfortunately most reporters fail to include those relevant facts.
But if Democrats and the media are so concerned with attorney generals misusing the Department of Justice, perhaps we should take a fresh look at the attorney general whose name graces DOJ headquarters — Robert Francis Kennedy. Kennedy viewed his office as one with the primary responsibility of protecting his brother. Hardly “the people’s attorney” as the left’s taking point goes.
RFK also effectively oversaw CIA covert operations from his position at the DOJ at a time when the CIA was committing abuses around the world. RFK also instructed the IRS to shut down and investigation into former Eisenhower Chief of Staff Sherman Adams for tax evasion as a quid pro quo for Eisenhower’s support on a key Kennedy initiative. Perhaps the vandals and statue police should petition to change the name of DOJ headquarters to a less politicized attorney general than RFK.
The fact is that Mr. Barr came into the department having already been attorney general and having also been legislative counsel to the CIA during the Church Committee hearings into abuses by the American intelligence community. He is taking that experience and working to hold accountable those unelected bureaucrats that have abused their position of trust to try and take down then-candidate and later President Trump. It is for that reason, and that reason alone, that Democrats are trying to take Mr. Barr down.
• Ian Prior was the principal deputy director of public affairs for the Trump Justice Department and current CEO of Headwaters Media.