Attorney General Bill Barr appears to have violated the Hatch Act after advocating for the re-election of President Trump during a recent interview. CREW sent a complaint to the Office of Special Counsel asking the office to investigate. During the interview, Barr candidly expressed his personal views about the Democratic Party and its nominee for president, Joe Biden, in addition to promoting President Trump’s re-election.
While participating in an interview in his official capacity, and using his official title, Barr discussed official government business before telling the host, “As an Attorney General I’m not supposed to get into politics, or at least you know, generally, for example, attorneys general don’t go out and campaign and so forth. But I do think, I think we were getting into a position where we were going to find ourselves irrevocably committed to the socialist path. And I think if Trump loses this election that that will be the case.” These comments were later promoted by the national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee on social media.
“Attorney General Barr has a long history of abusing his office and the Department of Justice to promote the president’s political agenda and re-election. He has consistently politicized the Department and acted more as the president’s personal lawyer than as the country’s chief law enforcement officer, which he is supposed to be,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “This administration routinely defies ethics laws and the Hatch Act in particular, but it is nonetheless shocking to see this lawless behavior from the official charged with enforcing the nation’s laws.”
The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from “us[ing their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” “Political activity” is defined as “an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.” During the interview, which took place in a federal building, Barr was accompanied by several DOJ staffers. Using official federal resources to promote political activity is prohibited by the Hatch Act.
CREW’s complaints have led to an unprecedented number of Trump administration officials being reprimanded for Hatch Act violations, including Sonny Perdue, Dan Scavino, Nikki Haley, Stephanie Grisham, Raj Shah, Jessica Ditto, Madeleine Westerhout, Helen Aguirre Ferre, Alyssa Farah, Jacob Wood, Kellyanne Conway and Lynne Patton. Following CREW’s complaints against Kellyanne Conway, OSC took the unprecedented step of recommending she be removed from federal service in a scathing report detailing her numerous ethics violations.
CREW has also taken a number of actions relating to Barr’s misconduct, including filing complaints looking into Barr’s potential conflicts of interest and potentially illegal or improper actions he has taken as Attorney General, such as interfering with active investigations and anti-protest measures. In May, CREW called on Barr to resign and submitted more than 100,000 signatures to the DOJ calling for his removal from office. More recently, CREW issued a report calling for his impeachment and, in partnership with the Center for Ethics and Rule of Law, issued a bipartisan report chronicling in detail and condemning Barr’s misconduct.