According to the ACLU, in June 2018 Attorney General William P. Barr sent an unrequested memo to the Justice Department. The 20 page memo critiqued special counsel Roberet Mueller’s investigation into possible election interference by Russians.
At the time, Barr was Trump’s nominee for AG. He had formerly served as AG under President George H.W. Bush. In the memo, he introduced himself as “a former official deeply concerned with the institutions of the Presidency and the Department of Justice.” The memo reasons that Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to ask the President about his possible obstruction of justice based solely on Trump’s attempts to pressure former FBI director James Comey to stop investigating former Security Advisor Micheal Flynn.
The legal theories that the memo draws from advocate for an expansive view of presidential power. The memo also raises questions about if Barr would tell Mueller to stop investigating the president. Further, it raises the question if Barr was only attempting to gain presidential favor by siding with Trump.
Marty Lederman, a former lawyer for the Obama administration, criticizes the memo for “conjuring from whole cloth a preposterously long set of assumptions” about Mueller’s investigation. He also attacks Barr’s analysis for its view on presidential powers and roles. Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner said that Barr’s memo “seriously damages his credibility and raises questions about his fitness for the Justice Department’s top position” in New York Times op-ed.
Barr’s views on executive power will have far-reaching implications, even beyond the Mueller investigation. His theory of presidential power is starkly different from that of Supreme Court precedent, and he seems to have little regard for the governmental separation of powers.