Legal experts are increasingly alarmed by Attorney General William Barr's efforts to help President Donald Trump win re-election.
The attorney general has joined the president in attacking voting integrity and civil rights demonstrators, and he has described his role in the election in explicitly religious terms that show Barr believes he represents "moral discipline and virtue" against "individual rapacity," reported The Guardian.
"His abuses have only escalated as we have gotten closer and closer to the election, and as the president has felt more and more politically vulnerable," said Donald Sherman, deputy director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "I can't put it more plainly than this: The attorney general is a threat to American citizens having free and fair access to the vote, and is a threat to American having their votes counted."
Barr has recently asked federal prosecutors to consider charging protesters with sedition and designated New York City, Portland and Seattle as "anarchy" zones, which helps Trump whip up hysteria about public safety.
"I think this attorney general is demonstrably more committed to the political success of the president, and the president's political agenda than any attorney general in history I can think of," said Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel under Bill Clinton.
Kinkopf testified against Barr during his 2019 confirmation hearing, when he warned senators the deeply conservative Washington veteran believed in giving the chief executive "breathtaking" powers.
"When I testified against him, I recognized how dangerous the unitary executive theory is," Kinkopf said. "But what I didn't appreciate, and I don't think anybody appreciated, was just how fully he would deploy that theory in advance not of rule-of law values, but in order to advance both the president's political agenda, and I think more deeply for Barr, his own social and religious commitments."
The attorney general has accused Black Lives Matter protesters of fomenting chaos as part of a socialist revolution, and he has described himself as a bulwark in a battle between good and evil.
"The attorney general sees himself clearly as fighting culture wars that are to him moral and religious," Kinkopf said, "and those are deeper, I think, commitments for him than the commitment to federalism, and so to the extent that the balance of federal and state power gets in the way of achieving what he wants to achieve in the culture wars, he's willing to cast that aside.
"So if there weren't a culture war angle on it, I think he would take the position that states and local governments should be left to police their own communities, and the federal government should keep its nose out," Kinkopf added. "But because he sees something at stake in the current protests that jeopardizes what he feels as being the proper order of society, he's not troubled about using federal power to pursue what he views as being the right results."