Attorney General Barr “Rewrote History” in Address to Federalist Society

William Barr speaking at a podium
U.S. Attorney General William Barr delivers remarks Thursday, July 11, 2019, in the Rose Garden of the White House. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead. Public Domain.

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) President Trevor Potter has joined a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers called Checks & Balances, many of whom have served in government agencies like the Department of Justice, in expressing profound concern with Attorney General William Barr’s address to the Federalist Society communicating an overly expansive view of presidential authority.

In his Nov. 15, 2019 address to the Federalist Society, Barr introduced a new defense of President Trump regarding the impeachment trial that reversed previous Republican lawmakers’ arguments that the president did not withhold military aid from Ukraine in exchange for political intelligence on former Vice President Joe Biden.

Instead, the Attorney General argued that the president acted well within his authority in deciding to withhold military assistance, and that any attempt to impeach President Trump undermined voters’ intent in 2016 and subverted the U.S. Constitution.

In a statement, reported on by The New York Times, the Checks & Balances group states that in his speech Attorney General “Barr rewrote history with the unsupported claim that his view of presidential power was shared by the Founders.”

The statement also lamented the way in which the Attorney General has undermined the important role of checks and balances in American tradition.

The lawyers write: “Barr’s view of history, including his claim that the Founders shared in any respect his vision of an unchecked president, and his assertion that this view was dominant until it came under attack from courts and Congress a few decades ago, has no factual basis. Actually, the Founders deliberately created a government of checks and balances, and the effectiveness of different presidents in exercising power within that framework has varied widely.  Indeed, the greatest assertions of presidential power have come in the last half-century. That our system has met those assertions with balanced responses of the other two co-equal branches is hardly a reason to abandon now the system that has served us well for so long.”

The Checks & Balances group added that this was yet another concerning development in Attorney General Barr’s pattern of conduct, including his expeditious and dismissive handling of the Mueller Investigation Report and the memorandum he wrote prior to his appointment “laying out his views on the overall impropriety of the Mueller investigation as a whole.”

They write, “It is clear to us that Barr’s views as enunciated in this memo are incongruous with settled notions of American government as one of checks and balances and shared powers among the three branches.”

CLC board member Charles Fried and CLC Senior Advisor Donald Ayer also joined in signing the statement.

Read the full statement here.

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