NYC Bar Association: AG Barr Must Recuse Himself from Ukraine Investigation or Face Possible Removal

Published on October 23, 2019 by Athena Pallas

The New York City Bar Association issued a statement today demanding that U.S. Attorney General William Barr recuse himself from any involvement in DOJ matters surrounding the Ukraine scandal or his remaining alternatives would be to resign or to face possible removal by Congress. At issue is Barr’s own alleged involvement in Trump’s attempt to hold $400 million in aid and a White House meeting over the Ukraine in order to get them to investigate Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, Biden’s son, as well as alleged corruption in the 2016 U.S. election related to Ukraine (none of these claims Trump wanted investigated are known to have a basis in fact).

Barr is named in the whistleblower complaint over the Ukraine scandal and President Trump, according to the transcript of that infamous telephone call which Trump provided, advised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Barr would be in touch with him to move forward with the political investigations. That potential involvement by Barr, as well as Barr appearing to be protecting the interests of Donald Trump over the interests of the United States, are the reasons why the New York City Bar Association is demanding that Barr recuse himself. According to Law.com, the website of the New York Law Journal:

The New York City Bar Association in a statement Wednesday called on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to stand aside in any ongoing or future review by the Department of Justice of issues stemming from the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine, in which Barr has allegedly involved. If Barr does not recuse himself, the bar association’s statement said, “he should resign or, failing that, be subject to sanctions, including possible removal, by Congress.” …“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. ”

The statement from the New York City Bar Association also questioned the appropriateness of the Department of Justice even reviewing the whistleblower complaint. It also marked the sharp contrast between the integrity and fairness Barr, when nominated, claimed he would follow, versus his actual actions as Attorney General, which have often seemed to be in service of Donald Trump rather than in service of the nation. According to the New York City Bar Association’s statement released today:

“…The attorney general must ensure that the administration of justice, the enforcement of the law is above and away from politics.”… Mr. Barr repeated these words at the time of his 2019 nomination for his current position as Attorney General and added that “the American people have to know that there are places in the government where the rule of law, not politics, holds sway and where they will be treated fairly based solely on the facts and the evenhanded application of the law. The Department of Justice must be that place.” …His (Barr’s) 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. 

The Department of Justice has so far declined to comment on this statement from the New York City Bar Association. Given Barr’s actions already, and President Trump’s insistence on blind devotion, it seems unlikely that Barr will indeed recuse himself as the NYC Bar Association advises unless he in effect does so by resigning. It also seems unlikely that Barr would resign, however. Then it will remain to be seen if Congress may act to sancton him or remove him.

Featured image by Office of Public Affairs from Washington DC – NPOMS 2019-118 via Wikimedia Commons.