NYC Bar Demands Bill Barr Recuse, Resign, Or Face Impeachment Over Ukraine

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The New York City Bar Association just waded into politics and it shocks no one that they side against Trump.

They just called for U.S. Attorney General William Barr to recuse himself from all Ukraine-related matters or resign as AG.

If not they want to sanction or impeach him? This is some document from a supposed professional organization.

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“Despite this commitment to the role of the Attorney General, Mr. Barr’s actions in office have failed in precisely the role that he described with eloquence when nominated.  That failure has jeopardized the confidence that the public can reasonably have in the DOJ as the place “where the rule of law, not politics, holds sway.”  His actions during his brief tenure in office have demonstrated to us that, contrary to the responsibilities of his office, he appears to view his primary obligation as loyalty to the President individually rather than to the nation.  In serving the President, he has been willing to take or countenance actions that are contrary to the professional standards of the DOJ, his oath of office and his own obligations as an attorney,” they wrote.

Our concern has been brought to a head by Mr. Barr’s failure to recuse himself from the DOJ’s review—itself of uncertain propriety—of the ongoing “whistleblower” complaint with respect to the President’s efforts during his July 25, 2019 telephone call to request the Republic of Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and former Vice-President Biden and his son (the “Ukraine Matter”).  As White House records made clear[4], the President told his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, that Mr. Barr “would be in touch with him” to follow up on the President’s requests. The whistleblower found this telephone call to be of “urgent concern” because of the President’s apparent intermingling of U.S. foreign policy interests with his personal political interests in apparent violation of U.S. law.[5]

Our focus here is not on the legality of the President’s actions or even on the merits of the whistleblower’s complaint, which the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General found to be “credible.”  Nor do we take a position at this time on whether DOJ’s review of this action was justified.

We do, however, believe it was, and is, incumbent on the Attorney General to recuse himself from any participation, direct or indirect, in DOJ’s review of the whistleblower complaint.  Regardless of whether Mr. Barr was in fact aware of or part of the President’s plans, either before, at the time of, or after the July 25, 2019 telephone call, it is clear that Mr. Barr was obligated to recuse himself from any involvement in DOJ’s review of either the whistleblower complaint or the substance of the President’s actions once the President offered Mr. Barr’s services to President Zelensky.

Federal regulations (28 CFR 45.2) for DOJ prosecutors require recusal whenever a lawyer “has a personal or political relationship with any person . . . substantially included in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation.”  The DOJ Manual for U.S. Attorneys requires (section 3-2.170, 2.220) recusal of U.S. Attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys where “a conflict of interest exists or there is an appearance of a conflict of interest or loss of impartiality.”  Executive Branch ethics rules also provide (5 C.F.R. 2635.502) that recusal is appropriate if “a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would be likely to question the employee’s impartiality in the matter.”

Mr. Barr also was specifically mentioned by the President as a participant in the activity under investigation.  Moreover, he appears to have participated in the DOJ review of the whistleblower’s complaint and its decision not to forward that complaint to Congress.  That he failed to recuse himself from that review, and still has not yet (to our knowledge) recused himself from any ongoing DOJ review of other aspects of the Ukraine Matter, is a serious violation of his obligation to protect the DOJ from reasonable questions as to its impartiality in the investigation of the Ukraine Matter.[6]

Recusal by the Attorney General is by no means rare.  There have been at least 16 such recusals since 1989, including two previous recusals by Mr. Barr himself (one in 1993 during his first term as Attorney General and one in 2019 in connection with the Jeffrey Epstein review) and the 2017 recusal by Attorney General Sessions because of his potential role as a witness to Russian interference in the 2016 election.  In addition, six other Attorneys General recused themselves during this period.[7]  The whistleblower complaint against the President and others (potentially involving Mr. Barr either as a witness or, conceivably, an accomplice) clearly rose to the levels that required recusal in these earlier investigations and should have led Mr. Barr to similar action in this instance.

We hope that Mr. Barr will act promptly to remedy, at least in part, his prior failure to recuse himself from the Ukraine Matter.  If, however, he chooses not to do so, we believe he must resign his position as Attorney General.  If he fails either to recuse himself or to resign, Mr. Barr should be subject to appropriate Congressional sanctions, including possible removal from office, in order to restore the Office of the Attorney General and the DOJ to their historic roles as defender of the law on behalf of the American people.

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