Harris Demands Justice Dept. Inspector General Investigate Whether White House Improperly Ordered or Pressured Barr to Open Investigations
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Friday sent a letter to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz requesting he investigate whether Attorney General William Barr has received or acted upon pressure from the president or the White House to open up investigations into any individuals. The letter comes on the heels of Barr’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, when he appeared unwilling or unable to answer Harris’ questioning about whether he had received or acted upon such requests.
“Such inappropriate requests by the President have been well documented,” wrote Harris. “Special Counsel Mueller…documented a disturbing pattern of behavior on the part of the President—repeated attempts to target his perceived opponents.”
Harris continued, “There must be no doubt that the Department of Justice and its leadership stand apart from partisan politics, and resist improper attempts to use the power of federal law enforcement to settle personal scores.”
The full text of the letter is available here and below:
May 3, 2019
The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Inspector General Horowitz:
I write to express grave concern about the independence of the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General William Barr. On May 1, Attorney General Barr appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In response to my questions during the hearing, Attorney General Barr proved unable or unwilling to state whether he had been directed to open investigations at the request or suggestion of the President or other White House officials—an alarming response that strikes at the very heart of the rule of law and threatens to undermine the longstanding independence of the Justice Department. I request that the Office of the Inspector General investigate whether the Attorney General has received or acted upon such improper requests.
Such inappropriate requests by the President have been well documented. For instance, in addition to investigating the Russian influence operation, Special Counsel Mueller also examined the President’s conduct with regard to the Russia probe and documented a disturbing pattern of behavior on the part of the President—repeated attempts to target his perceived opponents using the power of federal law enforcement.
Volume II of the Special Counsel’s report, which details his investigation of whether the President obstructed justice, describes three separate occasions on which the President asked or suggested that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions open an investigation into the President’s former opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Special Counsel’s report also catalogues a series of tweets in which the President suggests or openly calls for criminal and congressional investigations into Clinton’s conduct—anti-democratic rhetoric designed to erode law enforcement’s time-honored freedom from political pressure.
However, when I asked Attorney General Barr whether the President or other White House officials had ever made similar requests or suggestions to him, he was unable or unwilling answer the question.
Senator Harris: Attorney General Barr, has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?
Attorney General Barr: Um, I wouldn’t … I wouldn’t, uh—
Senator Harris: Yes or No?
Attorney General Barr: Could you … could you repeat that question?
Senator Harris: I will repeat it. Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no please, sir.
Attorney General Barr: Um, the President or anybody else…
Senator Harris: Seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us.
Attorney General Barr: Yeah, but I’m, I’m trying to grapple with the word “suggest.” I mean, there have been discussions of, of matters out there that, uh—they have not asked me to open an investigation, but…
Senator Harris: Perhaps they’ve suggested?
Attorney General Barr: I don’t know, I wouldn’t say suggest…
Senator Harris: Hinted?
Attorney General Barr: I don’t know.
Senator Harris: Inferred? You don’t know?
Attorney General Barr: No.
There must be no doubt that the Department of Justice and its leadership stand apart from partisan politics, and resist improper attempts to use the power of federal law enforcement to settle personal scores. In light of the disturbing conduct documented in the Special Counsel’s report, as well as Attorney General Barr’s failure to demonstrate his own independence from the President on such matters, I urge the Office of Inspector General to investigate whether the Attorney General has received or acted upon requests, suggestions, whether implied or explicit, to investigate the President’s perceived enemies.
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