Attorney General William Barr, who wrote a letter to Congress summarizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in March, is under fire again. According to Newsweek, several experts say that Barr’s work in the private sector might conflict with his supervision of the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election campaign.
Some of Barr’s previous employers are linked to some of the subjects of the investigation. Some say that his financial ties alone to companies connected to the Russia investigation are grounds for him to recuse himself.
“The legal standard is really clear about these issues. It’s not about actual conflict, it’s about the appearance of a conflict, about the appearance of bias,” Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham University’s School of Law said. “The problem is that we have so many flagrant conflicts that are so obvious, we get distracted from what the legal standard is.”
Barr’s public financial disclosure report reveals that he worked for a law firm that represented Russia’s Alfa Bank. He also worked for a company whose co-founders may have business ties to Russia. More, Barr received dividends from Vector Group, which has financial ties to Russia.
During his hearing, Congress focused on the unrequested memo Barr wrote where he criticized Mueller’s probe. Congress also wanted to know if he would release an un-redacted Mueller report.
Barr’s conflicts will likely be scrutinized as Democrats attempt to get the Mueller report released publicly.
“All of this raises the need for further inquiry from an independent review, not a Department of Justice investigation,” Michael Frisch, ethics counsel for Georgetown University’s law school and an expert in professional ethics, said.
Are Barr’s conflicts of interest grounds for his recusal?
“It would depend on his personal involvement. Did he profit from this in any way?” Larry Noble, a democracy and ethics expert and former counsel for the Federal Election Commission, said. “It’s a little bit concerning generally with this administration because everybody seems to have some connection somehow to people involved with Russian investment or Russia at some point.”
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