Bill Barr spoke at a ‘Constitution Day’ event hosted by Hillsdale College in Michigan on Wednesday. He called the lockdowns by governors the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in “American history” other than slavery.
“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” Barr said.
Barr’s speech was on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
“This great guarantees of the Bill of Rights — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to keep and bear arms, just to name the first few — are critical safeguards of liberty,” he said, according to prepared remarks.
“The rule of law is the lynchpin of American freedom. And the critical guarantee of the rule of law comes from the Constitution’s structure of separated powers. The Framers recognized that by dividing the legislative, executive, and judicial powers— each significant, but each limited—they would minimize the risk of any form of tyranny,” he added.
Barr criticized the politicization of the justice system.
“It has become fashionable to argue that prosecutorial decisions are legitimate only when they are made by the lowest-level line prosecutor handling any given case. Ironically, some of those same critics see no problem in campaigning for highly political, elected District Attorneys to remake state and local prosecutorial offices in their preferred progressive image, which often involves overriding the considered judgment of career prosecutors and police officers.”
“But aside from hypocrisy, the notion that line prosecutors should make the final decisions within the Department of Justice is completely wrong and it is antithetical to the basic values underlying our system,” Barr stated.
He condemned the “criminalization of politics” with media figures speculating on “some esoteric crime” an elected official might have committed.
THE PROPER ROLE OF ELECTED OFFICIALS
The attorney general said the proper role of elected officials is to serve as “the most basic check on prosecutorial power.”
“But political accountability—politics—is what ultimately ensures our system does its work fairly and with proper recognition of the many interests and values at stake. Government power completely divorced from politics is tyranny.”
He also stated that he has the authority to intervene in politically-charged cases.
“Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it’s no way to run a federal agency. Good leaders at the Justice Department—as at any organization—need to trust and support their subordinates. But that does not mean blindly deferring to whatever those subordinates want to do.”
“In short, the Attorney General, senior DOJ officials, and U.S. Attorneys are indeed political. But they are political in a good and necessary sense.”