Attorneys are duty bound to represent their client’s best interests. Attorney General William Barr seems to be confused about who his client is.
The attorney general of the United States is appointed by the president. His appointment is then approved by the Senate. That process is laid out in the United States Constitution.
William Barr was appointed by President Donald Trump. He was then confirmed by the Republican majority in the Senate. That made him the head of the U.S. Justice Department, the agency responsible for enforcing the rule of law in the United States.
All that makes William Barr, as attorney general of the United States, our nation’s attorney. He was appointed and approved to protect the interests of the people of the United States. Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday exposed his willingness to replace that obligation with protecting one particular client, Donald Trump.
The attorney general has a very broad view of presidential prerogative. His legal philosophy is apparently that a president embroiled in personal legal troubles is not free to focus on his presidential duties and thus cannot be prosecuted while in office, putting the president above the law.
Barr spent Wednesday testifying to the Judiciary Committee and twisting himself into linguistic pretzels trying to explain how the president’s interference with the Mueller investigation was not really interference.
For good measure, he threw Justice Department officials and the FBI, which has always been perceived as outside the normal political process, under the bus.
The existence or conclusions of the Mueller investigation is not the issue. Culpability of President Trump for anything is not the issue. The proper role of an attorney general and his ability to submit honestly and transparently to the constitutionally mandated oversight of Congress is.
The executive branch of government has an attorney, the White House counsel, who represents the interests of the office of the president, including claims of executive privilege. Presidents also have their own personal attorneys to protect their private interests. President Trump has several.
Barr seems more comfortable representing his own prerogatives, a weirdly extralegal view of the presidency, and engaging in deflection and obfuscation when testifying.
The American people should have a better lawyer representing their interests. Since they cannot directly fire Barr, he should resign.