Following up on her intense questioning of Attorney General William Barr earlier this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Kamala Harris sent a letter Friday to the Justice Department’s Inspector General seeking an investigation of Barr.
Specifically, Harris wants to know if President Donald Trump
or anyone else in the White House sought to compel Barr to investigate Trump’s
political enemies, particularly Hillary Clinton.
In one of the more revealing exchanges with Barr on Wednesday,
the Democratic senator from California and 2020 presidential candidate asked
Barr if Trump or anyone in the White House asked or suggested that he open an
investigation of anyone.
Barr uncharacteristically stammered, indicating he was
carefully considering his next words. Harris pounced: “Yes or no?” she asked.
Barr asked for the question to be repeated. He stalled again.
He said he was “trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’”
In the letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael
Horowitz, Harris expressed “grave concern about the independence of the
Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General William Barr.”
She called Barr’s answers “an alarming response that strikes
at the very heart of the rule of law and threatens to undermine the
longstanding independence of the Justice Department.”
She added that the report
by Special Counsel Robert Mueller had documented “repeated attempts to
target [Trump’s] perceived opponents using the power of federal law
enforcement.” These include three occasions in which Trump asked or suggested
that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions open an investigation into Clinton.
Trump also tweeted about it.
“In light of the disturbing conduct documented in the
Special Counsel’s report, as well as Attorney General Barr’s failure to
demonstrate his own independence from the President on such matters, I urge the
Office of Inspector General to investigate whether the Attorney General has
received or acted upon requests or suggestions, whether implied or explicit, to
investigate the President’s perceived enemies,” the letter stated.
Harris’ letter is the second
this week sent to the department’s inspector general by Democrats. Several
senators, led by Senate Judiciary Committee member Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, sent
an earlier letter urging the inspector general to investigate whether Barr
misled the public when he issued his now notorious four-page
“summary” of Mueller’s report, Politico reported.
Mueller had written
a letter of his own to Barr complaining that the attorney general’s summary
failed to reflect the “context, nature, and substance” of his report.
The senators also asked the inspector general to review
whether Barr should have recused himself from overseeing the Mueller probe,
given that he had written an unsolicited 19-page memo last year, before
becoming attorney general, arguing that the investigation into whether Trump
obstructed justice was flawed.
Harris, who formerly served as California’s attorney
general, did such a good job at questioning Barr this week that it prompted
Trump to complain on Fox Business Network that Harris had been “probably very nasty”
Harris responded to that comment by saying, “Trump’s primary
interest has been to obstruct justice. My primary interest is to pursue
Harris’ campaign already has turned the exchange with Barr into
a campaign ad.