President Donald Trump’s new pick for attorney general, William Barr, has a history of criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller, once calling the prosecutor “grossly irresponsible.”
Barr, who previously served as attorney general in President George H.W. Bush’s administration, sent an unsolicited memo to the Department of Justice earlier this year, condemning Mueller over his handling of the ongoing Russia investigation, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
In the 20-page document, Barr bashed Mueller for investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice when he asked then-FBI Director James Comey to stop a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn over his communication with top Russian officials.
According to Comey’s detailed account of the exchange, the president told him: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Barr argued that Trump was acting within his executive branch authority when he asked Comey to disband the investigation. He also wrote that Mueller “should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”
Barr then moved on to critiquing Mueller’s approach to the law, which he called “grossly irresponsible” with “potentially disastrous implications” for the future of the presidency.
“As I understand it, his theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law,” Barr wrote of Mueller in the memo. “Moreover, in my view, if credited by the Justice Department, it would have grave consequences far beyond the immediate confines of this case and would do lasting damage to the Presidency and to the administration of law within the Executive branch.”
Barr added that if the Justice Department was going to “take down a democratically elected President, it is imperative to the health of our system and to our national cohesion that any claim of wrongdoing is solidly based on evidence of a real crime—not a debatable one.”
Barr sent the memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in June. At the time, Barr was working as an attorney in Washington. Trump nominated Barr to serve as his next attorney general after Jeff Sessions was removed from the administration following the 2018 midterm elections.
The president told reporters that Barr was his “first choice from day one” and that he is a “terrific man, terrific person, a brilliant man.” Trump also called Barr “one of the most respected jurists in the country.”