Thousands of former DOJ, FBI officials call on AG Barr to resign

There's no modern precedent for a letter like this one. It serves as a reminder of just how severe Bill Barr's abuses have been.
Image: Attorney General William Barr at a press conference in Detroit on Dec. 18, 2020.
Attorney General William Barr at a press conference in Detroit on Dec. 18, 2020.Bill Pugliano / Getty Images file
Get the Msnbc newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
By Steve Benen

Three months ago, as Attorney General Bill Barr's political abuses became impossible to ignore, more than a thousand former Justice Department officials -- from Democratic and Republican administrations -- called for Barr's ouster. In the wake of the rule-of-law crisis surrounding the Michael Flynn case, those calls are now quite a bit louder.

Nearly 2,000 former Justice Department and FBI officials on Monday signed an open letter strongly critical of Attorney General William Barr's decision to abandon the prosecution of Michael Flynn, calling the action "extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented."

As of this morning, the latest tally shows over 2,100 former Justice Department and FBI officials publicly attaching their name to the letter calling for the attorney general's resignation.

NBC News' report added that most of the signatories served as career lawyers from both Republican and Democratic administrations, though there are also many former political appointees on the list. Pete Williams' report went on to note that the highest-ranking former official to sign, at least so far, is Stuart Gerson, who served briefly as acting attorney general at the start of the Clinton administration after leading the Justice Department Civil Division in the first Bush administration.

The list also includes former Solicitor General Charles Fried, who served in the Reagan administration.

The open letter is unreserved in its criticism of Barr, but it makes specific reference to the Flynn case, noting, "If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it."

The letter coincides with separate op-eds from Mary McCord, who served as an acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department, and Jonathan Kravis, who served as a federal prosecutor for a decade, both of whom condemned the attorney general's willingness to politicize federal law enforcement so brazenly. (Kravis was among the officials who resigned in protest following Barr's intervention in the Roger Stone case.)

As for the open letter, its signatories not only want Barr to resign over his abuses, they also call on Congress to censure the attorney general over "his repeated assaults on the rule of law in doing the President's personal bidding rather than acting in the public interest."

In case this isn't obvious, there's no modern precedent for a letter like this one. It serves as a reminder of just how severe Barr's abuses have been and the degree to which he's jolted our country's legal system.