Attorney General

AG Barr defends authority to overrule career prosecutors, says BLM uses deaths as 'props'

  • Print.

William Barr

U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a speech Wednesday he has the responsibility to overrule career prosecutors, part of the “permanent bureaucracy,” when they lose perspective.

Prosecutors can sometimes become “headhunters” who are consumed with taking down high-profile targets, Barr said. Those who have the ultimate authority, he said, are decision-makers given supervisory authority by presidential confirmation and Senate confirmation.

Barr’s prepared remarks are here; the Washington Post and the National Law Journal have coverage of the speech—part of the kickoff of a Constitution Day celebration at Hillsdale College.

“Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it’s no way to run a federal agency,” Barr said.

“Good leaders at the Justice Department—as at any organization—need to trust and support their subordinates. But that does not mean blindly deferring to whatever those subordinates want to do.”

Barr’s comments came after two controversial decisions.

Barr overruled a sentencing recommendation by prosecutors in the case against Roger Stone, a former adviser to President Donald Trump who was convicted for lying to Congress about his contacts with the Trump campaign regarding WikiLeaks.

In a second case, the Department of Justice is seeking to drop charges against Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser charged with lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia’s ambassador.

Barr also criticized the Black Lives Matter movement while saying he agrees that Black lives matter. The Washington Post covered those remarks—made in a Q&A session after his speech.

“They’re not interested in Black lives. They’re interested in props, a small number of Blacks who are killed by police during conflicts with police—usually less than a dozen a year—who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda,” he said.

Barr has urged aggressive prosecution of protesters who are violent, reportedly telling prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging them with sedition, according to previous accounts by the New York Times and other publications. Those stories were based on anonymous sources.

During the Q&A session, Barr also criticized coronavirus shutdowns. He said such measures come with consequences, including more opioid overdoses, and a doctor was not a “grand seer” who should set social policy, according to the Washington Post.

“All this nonsense about how something is dictated by science is nonsense,” he said.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.