American Oversight Sues for Records of Complaints About Barr’s Conduct

On Tuesday, American Oversight sued the Department of Justice for records of any complaints filed about the conduct of Attorney General William Barr, who has exhibited a troubling pattern of serving the president’s political interests over those of the American people.

Last month — as outcry over Barr’s actions continued to mount from law professors, former officials, and past Bar Association presidents — we filed a Freedom of Information Act request for complaints containing allegations concerning his tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. From his inappropriate interventions into criminal cases involving associates of President Donald Trump and his authoritarian crackdown on racial justice protests to the marshaling of Justice Department resources in what appears to be a politically motivated investigation, Barr’s leadership has been deeply problematic.

Since we filed the FOIA request, the attorney general has given little indication that he intends to stray from his White House-obliging path. In defiance of Justice Department norms and against typical department policy, Barr has made multiple public comments on the ongoing investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, even saying that he would not wait until after the November election to release its findings. 

Last week came new revelations that Barr had told Rupert Murdoch last fall to “muzzle” Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News judicial analyst who had been critical of Trump. After that meeting, which took place in October 2019, as the House was conducting its impeachment investigation, we filed FOIA requests for meeting notes and communications between Murdoch and Barr; you can see those requests here. (We also recently published records we obtained showing the close coordination between Department of Homeland Security officials and Fox News producers in the early months of 2020.)

The Justice Department’s failure to respond to the records request prompted Tuesday’s lawsuit. American Oversight is also suing the administration for records related to the department’s ongoing politicization under Barr, such as the Durham investigation and the dismissal of the criminal case against Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Earlier this month, we sued multiple agencies for documents that could shed light on the harsh response to protests against police brutality — including the use of force on peaceful demonstrators near the White House in early June, which was reportedly ordered by Barr himself.