Barr attacks Justice Department staff, compares them to preschoolers
Attorney General William Barr slammed the hundreds of Justice Department prosecutors working beneath him on Wednesday, equating them to preschoolers, in a defense of his own politically tuned decision making in the Trump administration.
“Name one successful organization or institution where the lowest level employees’ decisions are deemed sacrosanct, there aren’t. There aren’t any letting the most junior members set the agenda,” Barr said, speaking at a Constitution Day celebration hosted by Hillsdale College.
“It might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency,” the attorney general added.
The comments are likely to inflame already strained relations between the politically appointed Justice Department leadership in Washington and the career attorneys across the country who serve through multiple presidencies.
Barr has faced immense blowback from Justice Department employees and even rank-and-file attorneys in the department since the close of the Mueller investigation, for swaying cases in a way that undermines longstanding legal policies.
Notably, several career prosecutors have not signed onto positions in court have pushed the wishes of President Donald Trump and Barr over, they say, the law, such as in the Roger Stone criminal case.
In the speech, Barr questioned any criticism he’s received for “interfering” in cases. The attorney general has ultimate authority, he said.
“These people are agents of the attorney general. As I say, FBI agents, whose agent do you think you are?” Barr asked on Tuesday, adding that career lawyers, too, might be influenced by politics. “And I say, ‘What exactly am I interfering with?’ When you boil it right down, it’s the will of the most junior member of the organization who has some idea he wants to do something. What makes that sacrosanct?”
“They do not have the political legitimacy to be the public face for tough decisions and they lack the political buy-in necessary to publicly defend those decisions,” Barr also said.
The speech comes after Barr has been escalating alarmist and politicized rhetoric in a series of interviews, and advocating against Democrats in the election.
“In short, the attorney general, senior DOJ officials, and US attorneys are indeed political. But they are political in a good and necessary sense,” he said.