Daniel Pantaleo, N.Y.P.D. Officer in Eric Garner’s Death, Should Be Fired, Judge Says

Five years after Eric Garner’s death in police custody ignited a national outcry, a police administrative judge recommended on Friday that the officer who placed him in a chokehold during the botched arrest should be fired.

The finding sets in motion the final stage of a long legal and political battle over the fate of the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who has become for many critics of the New York Police Department an emblem of what they see as overly aggressive policing in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

How to handle Officer Pantaleo has been a political minefield for both Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill — who now must decide whether to fire him and incur the wrath of police unions — and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for years has expressed solidarity with the Garner family while avoiding saying whether Officer Pantaleo should remain on the force.

For the police, Mr. Garner’s death was a watershed moment, forcing a reckoning over how the department engaged with its residents. Across the country, his last words — “I can’t breathe” — became a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, and led to sweeping changes in use-of-force policies.

But Officer Pantaleo’s continued employment has shadowed Mr. de Blasio, dogging him as he embarked on a run for president as a progressive Democrat. The mayor, who ran on a platform of police reform, has worked to reduce incarceration, cutting the number of arrests for minor crimes, but he has also labored to avoid alienating rank-and-file officers.

His unwillingness to call for Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal came up at the Democrat’s national debate on Wednesday night when he was criticized by his fellow New Yorker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and by protesters shouting “Fire Pantaleo.”

On Friday, Mr. de Blasio said the Garner family had waited too long for action and had been failed by federal and state law enforcement prosecutors. But he again declined to say whether he believed Officer Pantaleo should be fired.

“Today, we finally saw a step toward justice and accountability,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial, and I hope this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace.”

Under the City Charter and court rulings, Mr. O’Neill has the final say over whether Officer Pantaleo will be dismissed and lose his pension. Prosecutors and the defense typically have up to two weeks to respond to the findings of the judge, Rosemarie Maldonado, a deputy police commissioner who oversees disciplinary hearings.

Mr. O’Neill could decide to uphold, modify or reverse her findings, which were confirmed by two people familiar with the decision. The officer could also resign ahead of a decision.

In recent weeks, Mr. O’Neill has found himself caught between elected officials and community leaders who have been calling for the officer to be fired and leaders of police unions who have cast Officer Pantaleo as a scapegoat.

The Garner family called on Mr. O’Neill to dismiss the officer immediately. “This has been a long battle,” Mr. Garner’s daughter, Emerald Snipes Garner, said at a news conference in Manhattan with the Rev. Al Sharpton. “And finally, somebody has said that there’s some information that this cop has done something wrong.”

But the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, warned that the commissioner and the mayor would lose the support of officers if the decision was made to terminate Officer Pantaleo. “This decision is pure insanity,” he said in a statement. “If it is allowed to stand it will paralyze the N.Y.P.D. for years to come.

A Police Department spokesman said Mr. O’Neill had yet to receive a copy of the judge’s report and would not make a decision until later this month, after lawyers for both sides have a chance to comment on the conclusions. Mr. O’Neill did suspend Officer Pantaleo on Friday.

“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our city’s history,” the spokesman, Phillip Walzak, said. “Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made.”

The judge’s recommendation comes two weeks after Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the Justice Department would not seek a federal indictment against the officer on civil rights charges, ending five years of internal debate among federal prosecutors.

Though Mr. de Blasio is not allowed to directly fire a police officer, he can influence the decision because the police commissioner serves at his pleasure. Mr. de Blasio has said he cannot publicly express an opinion on Officer Pantaleo’s status because it could be seen as an attempt to influence the department’s decision, exposing the city to a lawsuit.

Mr. Lynch, the union president, said the mayor had already exerted that influence with his remarks on the presidential debate stage. “We have a mayor who predetermined the outcome,” he said. “He said the family will get justice. Of course that family’s justice is finding a police officer guilty and firing them.”

Officer Pantaleo was captured on video using a chokehold on Mr. Garner in 2014 as he and other officers subdued him. Mr. Garner was believed to be illegally selling loose cigarettes. A city medical examiner determined that the chokehold set in motion a “lethal cascade” of events, including an asthma attack and a fatal heart attack.

[The Pantaleo case has shadowed Mr. de Blasio on the presidential campaign trail.]

Officer Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said the judge had ignored the evidence and bowed to outside political pressure. He said Officer Pantaleo was disappointed but would continue to fight to keep his job. “This case was won in that courtroom,” Mr. London said. He added that, “Politics trumped, unfortunately, the rule of law.”

In the 47-page decision, dated Friday, Ms. Maldonado

Five years after Eric Garner’s death in police custody ignited a national outcry, a police administrative judge recommended on Friday that the officer who placed him in a chokehold during the botched arrest should be fired.

The finding sets in motion the final stage of a long legal and political battle over the fate of the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who has become for many critics of the New York Police Department an emblem of what they see as overly aggressive policing in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

How to handle Officer Pantaleo has been a political minefield for both Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill — who now must decide whether to fire him and incur the wrath of police unions — and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for years has expressed solidarity with the Garner family while avoiding saying whether Officer Pantaleo should remain on the force.

For the police, Mr. Garner’s death was a watershed moment, forcing a reckoning over how the department engaged with its residents. Across the country, his last words — “I can’t breathe” — became a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, and led to sweeping changes in use-of-force policies.

But Officer Pantaleo’s continued employment has shadowed Mr. de Blasio, dogging him as he embarked on a run for president as a progressive Democrat. The mayor, who ran on a platform of police reform, has worked to reduce incarceration, cutting the number of arrests for minor crimes, but he has also labored to avoid alienating rank-and-file officers.

His unwillingness to call for Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal came up at the Democrat’s national debate on Wednesday night when he was criticized by his fellow New Yorker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and by protesters shouting “Fire Pantaleo.”

On Friday, Mr. de Blasio said the Garner family had waited too long for action and had been failed by federal and state law enforcement prosecutors. But he again declined to say whether he believed Officer Pantaleo should be fired.

“Today, we finally saw a step toward justice and accountability,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial, and I hope this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace.”

Under the City Charter and court rulings, Mr. O’Neill has the final say over whether Officer Pantaleo will be dismissed and lose his pension. Prosecutors and the defense typically have up to two weeks to respond to the findings of the judge, Rosemarie Maldonado, a deputy police commissioner who oversees disciplinary hearings.

Mr. O’Neill could decide to uphold, modify or reverse her findings, which were confirmed by two people familiar with the decision. The officer could also resign ahead of a decision.

In recent weeks, Mr. O’Neill has found himself caught between elected officials and community leaders who have been calling for the officer to be fired and leaders of police unions who have cast Officer Pantaleo as a scapegoat.

The Garner family called on Mr. O’Neill to dismiss the officer immediately. “This has been a long battle,” Mr. Garner’s daughter, Emerald Snipes Garner, said at a news conference in Manhattan with the Rev. Al Sharpton. “And finally, somebody has said that there’s some information that this cop has done something wrong.”

But the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, warned that the commissioner and the mayor would lose the support of officers if the decision was made to terminate Officer Pantaleo. “This decision is pure insanity,” he said in a statement. “If it is allowed to stand it will paralyze the N.Y.P.D. for years to come.”

A Police Department spokesman said Mr. O’Neill had yet to receive a copy of the judge’s report and would not make a decision until later this month, after lawyers for both sides have a chance to comment on the conclusions. Mr. O’Neill did suspend Officer Pantaleo on Friday.

“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our city’s history,” the spokesman, Phillip Walzak, said. “Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made.”

The judge’s recommendation comes two weeks after Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the Justice Department would not seek a federal indictment against the officer on civil rights charges, ending five years of internal debate among federal prosecutors.

Though Mr. de Blasio is not allowed to directly fire a police officer, he can influence the decision because the police commissioner serves at his pleasure. Mr. de Blasio has said he cannot publicly express an opinion on Officer Pantaleo’s status because it could be seen as an attempt to influence the department’s decision, exposing the city to a lawsuit.

Mr. Lynch, the union president, said the mayor had already exerted that influence with his remarks on the presidential debate stage. “We have a mayor who predetermined the outcome,” he said. “He said the family will get justice. Of course that family’s justice is finding a police officer guilty and firing them.”

Officer Pantaleo was captured on video using a chokehold on Mr. Garner in 2014 as he and other officers subdued him. Mr. Garner was believed to be illegally selling loose cigarettes. A city medical examiner determined that the chokehold set in motion a “lethal cascade” of events, including an asthma attack and a fatal heart attack.

Officer Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said the judge had ignored the evidence and bowed to outside political pressure. He said Officer Pantaleo was disappointed but would continue to fight to keep his job. “This case was won in that courtroom,” Mr. London said. He added that, “Politics trumped, unfortunately, the rule of law.”

Still, the judge cleared Officer Pantaleo of one charge against him: She found that he had not intentionally restricted Mr. Garner’s breathing.

Fred Davie, the chairman of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency which acted as prosecutors at the disciplinary hearing, said the judge had vindicated the board’s long-held position that Officer Pantaleo had caused Mr. Garner’s death. “Commissioner O’Neill must uphold this verdict and dismiss Pantaleo from the department,” Mr. Davie said in a statement.

The chokehold was captured in bystanders’ videos of Mr. Garner’s July 17 arrest published by The New York Daily News.

One shows Officer Pantaleo’s arms gripping Mr. Garner’s upper body and quickly sliding up to his neck as the two stumbled to the ground. Mr. Garner repeated “I can’t breathe” 11 times as officers pressed him onto the sidewalk.

Both a grand jury on Staten Island and the Department of Justice declined to bring criminal charges against Officer Pantaleo. Federal prosecutors determined that Officer Pantaleo had used a chokehold, but they could not agree on whether they could prove it was intentional.

In the last two weeks, Mr. Garner’s relatives, backed by many of the city’s elected officials, have threatened to shut down the city if the de Blasio administration did not fire Officer Pantaleo.

On Friday, Mr. Garner’s family and their supporters said even Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal would not satisfy them, and they remain convinced Officer Pantaleo should have faced criminal charges in state or federal court. “Make no mistake about it, this is not justice for the Garner family,” the Rev. Sharpton said.

Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwenn Carr, also called on the commissioner to fire other officers involved in the arrest, including Officer Pantaleo’s partner, Justin Damico, and Lt. Christopher Bannon, who supervised the two officers and said in text messages that Mr. Garner’s death was “not a big deal.”

Police union lawyers argued at the disciplinary hearing that Officer Pantaleo had used an authorized takedown tactic to subdue Mr. Garner, who they said was resisting a lawful arrest.

Prosecutors from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a city agency that investigates police misconduct accusations, presented evidence that Officer Pantaleo performed a takedown technique that he had not been trained to use.

When it went wrong, instead of letting go, he clasped his hands to secure his grip around Mr. Garner’s neck, they said.

The prosecutors, Suzanne O’Hare and Jonathan Fogel, said that Mr. Garner was trying to talk the officers out of arresting him, just as he had done two weeks earlier with Officer Damico.

Mr. Davie said the evidence prosecutors had brought forward at the departmental trial “was more than sufficient to prove Pantaleo unfit to serve.”

Who is William Barr? Narrated by Jamie Lee (Girl Code & Crashing) | NowThis

Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, looks like Steve Bannon. Comedian Jamie Lee, from Girl Code and HBO’s Crashing, explains how the Cover-Up General went from protecting Reagan and Bush during the Iran & Iraq scandals to protecting Donald Trump from the Mueller Report, the Russia Investigation and impeachment.
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The Mueller Report and Russia Investigation aren’t the first instances where Barr has redacted information to protect a President.

While serving under President George H.W, Bush, Barr wrote and tried to hide a very controversial legal opinion claiming that the U.S. didn’t need the permission from international governments to send FBI agents to overthrow a foreign leader from power. When asked to hand over this memo, Barr declined and instead handed over a 13-page document that “summarized the conclusions”. However, when Congress was able to obtain the full memo, his summary left out some of the conclusions in the full memo. Barr’s summary omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions from the actual opinion. Evidently, there was also no justifiable reason for having withheld those parts from Congress of the public.

Needless to say, with a track record like Barr’s, we may not be surprised but we are very skeptical over Barr’s conclusions of the Mueller investigation — his summary of the Mueller Report concluded there was no collusion between Trump and Russia during the 2016 election.

He also helped get six Reagan White House officials pardoned for their roles in the Iran Contras Scandal while arguing for more incarcerations and blaming the Rodney King riots on immigration. Barr also protected Bush and Regan for funneling billions of dollars to Saddam Hussein. Yep.

This is William Barr.

Bill Barr Refuses to be questioned by Congressional Councel

From the four-page “Barr letter” and its fatuous conclusion that Trump did not obstruct justice to the pre-release press conference in which Barr attempted to spin the report in the president’s favor, the attorney general has been doing damage control. Over the last week, as Trump has said he will fight every request and every subpoena, Barr is now running interference between the Justice Department and the Congress.  He is refusing to appear before the House Judiciary Committee unless chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., shelves his plan to have part of the session run by committee counsel and hold a part of the hearing in closed session. Apparently Barr does not like the idea that the legal staff could follow up closely with a line of inquiry. He prefers the disjointed five-minute questioning format that never gets anywhere, which is a sad statement coming from the attorney general of the United States.

If Barr can’t face a committee lawyer, perhaps he’s not really fit to be the top law enforcement officer in the federal government. The Judiciary Committee lawyers interviewed many of the other participants in the Russia investigation, including former FBI director James Comey, in closed session. The only difference with Barr is that this will be a public hearing, which one might expect the self-described most transparent government in history to be happy to accommodate.

Barr has been around long enough to remember all the times that congressional committees had counsel question witnesses, including cabinet members. It most famously happened during the Watergate hearings when lawyers like Sam Dash and Richard Ben-Veniste became national figures, holding the president’s men’s feet to the fire. Chief counsel to the Senate’s Iran-Contra committee, Arthur Liman, led the questioning in that inquiry. And considering that just a few months ago, the Republicans hired an outside attorney to question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, it’s entirely absurd that Barr is balking.

Nadler refused to change his plans, explaining patiently that witnesses aren’t allowed to dictate procedure to congressional committees, nor is the attorney general allowed to dictate to the legislative branch. (The Trump administration remains very confused about the separation of powers in general.) Nadler says he’ll issue a subpoena if Barr refuses to show up. There is some talk about holding the hearings with an empty chair which would be very silly and unproductive.

Robert Costa of the Washington Post reported on MSNBC on Monday that Republican sources tell him the Democrats are being “political” and have no right to hold hearings that are impeachment inquiries in all but name. I think we know how to solve that problem, don’t we?

William Barr

U.S. Department of Justice

In 1989, at the beginning of his administration, President George H. W. Bush appointed Barr to the U.S. Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), an office which functions as the legal advisor for the President and executive agencies. Barr was known as a strong defender of presidential power.[12] He wrote an advisory opinion justifying the U.S. invasion of Panama and arrest of Manuel Noriega.[12] He wrote legal justifications for the practice of rendition,[13] so that the FBIcould enter onto foreign soil without the consent of the host government to apprehend fugitives wanted by the United States government for terrorism or drug-trafficking.[12] Barr declined a congressional request for the full opinion, but instead provided a document that “summarizes the principal conclusions.” Congress subpoenaed the opinion, and its public release after Barr’s departure from the Justice Department showed he had omitted significant findings in the opinion from his summary document.[14]

U.S. Attorney General (1991–1993)[edit]

First nomination and confirmation[edit]

It was reported that President Bush was impressed with Barr’s management of the hostage crisis; weeks later, Bush nominated him as Attorney General.[21]

Barr’s two-day confirmation hearing was “unusually placid”, and he received a good reception from both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.[22] Asked whether he thought a constitutional right to privacy included the right to an abortion, Barr responded that he believed the constitution was not originally intended to create a right to abortion; that Roe v. Wade was thus wrongly decided; and that abortion should be a “legitimate issue for state legislators“.[22] “Barr also said at the hearings that Roe v. Wade was ‘the law of the land’ and claimed he did not have ‘fixed or settled views’ on abortion.”[23] Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Biden, though disagreeing with Barr, responded that it was the “first candid answer” he had heard from a nominee on a question that witnesses would normally evade; Biden hailed Barr as “a throwback to the days when we actually had attorneys general that would talk to you.”[24] Barr was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee, was confirmed by voice vote by the full Senate,[25][26] and was sworn in as Attorney General on November 26, 1991.[27]

First tenure

During his first tenure as AG, media characterized Barr as staunchly conservative.[28][29] However, Barr was widely respected by both Republicans and Democrats alike. In 1995, Joe Biden told Barr, “You were one of the best (attorney generals) I have ever worked with, and there have been a lot of attorneys general since I have been here, and I mean that sincerely.”[30] He was described as affable with a dry, self-deprecating wit.[31][32] The New York Times described the “central theme” of his tenure to be “his contention that violent crime can be reduced only by expanding Federal and state prisons to jail habitual violent offenders.”[28] In an effort to prioritize violent crime Barr reassigned three hundred FBI agents from counterintelligence work to investigations of gang violence, which the New York Times called, “the largest single manpower shift in the bureau’s history.”[28]

 

The Case for More Incarceration[edit]

In 1992, Barr authored a report, The Case for More Incarceration,[33] which argued for an increase in the United States incarceration rate, the creation of a national program to construct more prisons, and the abolition of parole release.[4] Barr argued that incarceration reduced crime, pointing to crime and incarceration rates in 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1990; a 1999 criminology study criticized Barr’s analysis, saying “so complex an issue as the relationship between crime and punishment cannot be addressed through so simplistic an analysis as a negative correlation between the two very aggregated time series of crime rates and incarceration rates.”[34] University of Minnesota criminologist Michael Tonry said the data in Barr’s report was deceptively presented; if Barr had chosen five-year intervals, then the data would not have supported Barr’s argument, and if Barr had chosen to look at violent crime specifically (as opposed to all crimes as a category), then the data would not have supported his argument.[35] Barr said in the report, “The benefits of increased incarceration would be enjoyed disproportionately by black Americans”.[35] In the report, Barr approvingly quoted New Mexico Attorney General Hal Stratton, “I don’t know anyone that goes to prison on their first crime. By the time you go to prison, you are a pretty bad guy.”[36] Barr’s report influenced the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which aimed to increase the incarceration rate.[4]

.. Phone surveillance program

In 1992, Barr launched a surveillance program to gather records of innocent Americans’ international phone calls.[41] The DOJ Inspector General concluded that this program was launched without a review of the legality of the program.[41] According to USA Today, the program “provided a blueprint for far broader phone-data surveillance the government launched after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”[41]

Iran-Contra

In late 1992, Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, who had been chosen to investigate the Iran–Contra affair, found documents in the possession of Reagan’s former defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, which Walsh said was “evidence of a conspiracy among the highest-ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.”[42][43] Weinberger was set to stand trial on felony charges on January 5, 1993.[42][44] His “indictment said Mr. Weinberger’s notes contradicted Mr. Bush’s assertions that he had only a fragmentary knowledge of the arms secretly sold to Iran in 1985 and 1986 in exchange for American hostages in Lebanon.”[44][43][45] According to Walsh, then-president Bush might have been called as a witness.[46]

On December 24, 1992, during his final month in office, Bush, on the advice of Barr, pardoned Weinberger,[47][10] along with five other administration officials who had been found guilty on charges relating to the Iran–Contra affair.[10][48][49][42] Barr was consulted extensively regarding the pardons, and especially advocated for pardoning Weinberger.[50]

Walsh complained about the move insinuating that Bush on Barr’s advice had used the pardons to avoid testifying and stating that: “The Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.”[51] In 2003, he wrote an account of the investigation in his book, Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up.

Because of this and Barr’s unwillingness to appoint an independent counsel to look into a second scandal known as IraqgateNew York Times writer William Safire began to refer to Barr as “Coverup-General Barr.”[52] Barr, however, responded that he believed Bush had made the right decision regarding that and he felt people in the case had been treated unfairly.[53] Barr said that Walsh was a “head-hunter” who “had completely lost perspective.”[54]

.. In June 2018, Barr sent an unsolicited 20-page memo to senior Justice Department officials, and to members of Trump’s legal team, with some of whom he discussed the memo.[71] In it he argued that the Special Counsel should not be investigating Trump for obstruction of justice because Trump’s actions, such as firing FBI Director James Comey, were within his powers as head of the executive branch.[72][73][74] He characterized the obstruction investigation as “fatally misconceived.”[75] The day after the existence of the memo became known, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said “our decisions are informed by our knowledge of the actual facts of the case, which Mr. Barr didn’t have.”[76] Democrats later characterized the memo as Barr’s “job application” for the Attorney General position.[77]

 

In May 2019, three months into his tenure as Attorney General, the Associated Press characterized Barr as a champion and advocate for Trump.[88] Barr had enthusiastically supported Trump’s political agenda, misrepresented aspects of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s, repeated Trump’s talking point that those investigating Trump had engaged in “spying”, defied congressional subpoenas, and refused to give Congress an unredacted version of the Mueller report.[88]

Under Barr’s leadership, the Justice Department changed its position on the Affordable Care Act(ACA). Previously the department took the position that the individual mandate provision was unconstitutional, but could be severed from the whole healthcare law. On March 25, the department updated its position to argue that the entire law is unconstitutional.[89] On May 2, the department conducted a filing with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to nullify the entire law, arguing that the removal of the provision on individual mandate results in the entire law becoming unconstitutional.[90] As of that day, President Donald Trump has promised to produce a replacement health insurance plan only after he wins reelection in 2020. If the ACA is nullified, over 20 million Americans risk losing their health insurance.[91]

At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, 2019, Barr was asked by Senator Kamala Harris: “Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?” Barr hesitated, asked her to repeat the question, and finally indicated he was unsure of what ‘suggested’ meant, saying “there have been discussions of matters out there, they have not asked me to open an investigation … I wouldn’t say suggest.” When Harris asked, “Hinted? Inferred?” Barr replied: “I don’t know.”[92]

In early June the House Oversight Committee moved to hold Barr in contempt of congress for defying a subpoena regarding information about efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 US Census.[94] Two days after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Barr likened his own experience at the Justice Department to the experience of the paratroopers who had shoot into Sainte-Mère-Église on D-Day.[95]

Mueller investigation and report

On January 14, 2019, a day before Barr’s confirmation hearing for Attorney General, Barr sent written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the eventual final Mueller report, saying “it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel’s work … For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.”[96][97]

The Department of Justice released a redacted version of the special counsel’s report in the morning of April 18, 2019.[109][110] After the release of the full report, fact-checkers and news outlets characterized Barr’s initial letter as a deliberate mischaracterization of the Mueller Report and its conclusions.[111][112][113][114][115][116] The New York Times reported instances in which the Barr letter omitted information and quoted sentence fragments out of context in ways that significantly altered the Mueller findings, including:[111]

  • A sentence fragment described only one possible motive for Trump to obstruct justice, while the Mueller report listed other possible motives
  • Omission of words and a full sentence that twice suggested there was knowing and complicit behavior between the Trump campaign and Russians that stopped short of coordination
  • Omission of language that indicated Trump could be subject to indictment after leaving office, to suggest that Trump was cleared in full

According to the Associated Press, Barr misrepresented the report in several ways, saying the report

  • gave no indication that Congress could make a determination on obstruction of justice (the report specifically stated “that Congress may apply obstruction laws”) and that
  • “these reports are not supposed to be made public” (when DOJ regulations give the AG wide authority in releasing reports such as this one).[117] Barr
  • falsely claimed in his summary of the report that “the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation.”[118] The Washington Post fact-checker described Barr’s claim as “astonishing”[112] and PolitiFact said it was “false.”[118] In actuality, Trump
  • declined to grant the Special Counsel an in-person interview, and the
  • Special Counsel report characterized Trump’s written responses to interview questions as “inadequate“.[118]The report also
  • documented numerous instances where Trump tried to either impede or end the Special Counsel investigation, analyzing each in terms of the three factors necessary for a criminal charge of obstruction.[118][119][120][not in citations given]

During a press conference, Barr said Mueller’s report contained “substantial evidence” that Trump was “frustrated and angered” because of his belief that the “investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks”; however, the report gave no indication that Trump’s frustrations with the investigation would mitigate obstructing behavior.[104][121][122] Barr also said it would not be criminal obstruction of justice for a president to instruct a staffer to lie to investigators about the president’s actions,[123] and suggested a president could legally terminate an investigation into himself if he was being “falsely accused”.[124]

The Justice Department took the position that disclosure of the unredacted Mueller Report would require the department to violate “the law, court rules and court orders” as well as grand jury secrecy rules.[125]

During May 1, 2019 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr stated he accepted Mueller’s interpretation of the law that was applied in the Report. However, in a May 30 CBS News interview, Barr stated that he had applied his own interpretation of the law and took the position that obstruction laws cannot apply to presidents who abuse their official powers to impede an investigation for a corrupt reason. Barr elaborated: “As a matter of law…we didn’t agree with the legal analysis – a lot of the legal analysis in the report. It did not reflect the views of the department”.[127][128]

In a 1995 article for The Catholic Lawyer, Barr stated that the American government is “predicated precisely” on the Judeo-Christian system.[152][152]:3 Barr grapples with the challenge of representing Catholicism “in an increasingly militant, secular age.”[152]:1 Barr asserts that there are three ways secularists use “law as a legal weapon.”[152]:8

  1. The first method is through elimination of traditional moral norms through legislation and litigation; Barr cites the elimination of the barriers to divorce and the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade as examples of this method.[152]:8
  2. The second is the promotion of moral relativism through the passage of laws that dissolve moral consensus and enforce neutrality.[152]:8 Barr draws attention to a 1987 case, Gay Rights Coalition v. Georgetown University, which “compel[s] Georgetown University to treat homosexual activist groups like any other student group.”[152]:9
  3. The third method is the use of law directly against religion; as an example of this method, Barr cites efforts to use the Establishment Clause to exclude religiously motivated citizens from the public square.[152]:9 Concluding, Barr states the need to “restructure education and take advantage of existing tax deductions for charitable institutions to promote Catholic education.”[152]:12

Barr is an avid bagpiper. He began playing at age eight and has performed competitively in Scotland with a major American pipe band. At one time, Barr was a member of the City of Washington Pipe Band.[31]