Hours after a new witness testified in the House’s latest impeachment hearing on Friday, Attorney General William Barr railed against Democrats for declaring a “war of resistance against this administration.”
In a speech before the conservative Federalist Society, Barr rebuked lawmakers for probing President Donald Trump’s potential power abuses, suggesting their efforts are illegitimate.
“The sheer volume of what we see today ― the pursuit of scores of parallel investigations through an avalanche of subpoenas ― is plainly designed to incapacitate the executive branch, and indeed is touted as such,” Barr said. “The costs of this constant harassment are real.”
Barr’s portrayal of oversight as harassment echoes Trump’s repeated claims that he is the victim of a partisan “witch hunt” rather than the subject of a justified inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine, which remain at the heart of Democratic-led impeachment proceedings.
“The fact of the matter is that, in waging a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of resistance against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law,” Barr added. “This highlights a basic disadvantage that conservatives have had in contesting the political issues of the day.”
Barr went on to invoke the ideologies of Fisher Ames, a Federalist Party politician who served as a congressman representing Massachusetts in the 1790s. Paraphrasing Ames, Barr suggested that progressives are behaving like zealots, treating “politics as their religion:”
Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications.
The remarks are yet another indicator that Barr ― who vowed during his January confirmation to place law, facts and good faith over politics ― isn’t hesitating to take shots at those who threaten Trump’s power.
The charged statements followed former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s appearance before the House Intelligence Committee. Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post in May, said that the president’s allies, including lawyer Rudy Giuliani, had orchestrated a “smear campaign” against her, which was spread by right-wing media.
During the hearing, Trump lashed out against Yovanovitch, castigating her decades of diplomatic service on Twitter. Responding in real time, she called the attack “intimidating.”
After her dismissal, Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to aid Barr and Giuliani with an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, based on unfounded corruption accusations.
The request has become the central focus of impeachment proceedings, raising concerns that Trump may have been soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election while targeting a potential Democratic rival.