Carper: While I hope I am wrong, it is my belief that President Trump views this appointment as an opportunity to protect himself, rather than the constitutional rights of all Americans.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the nomination of William Barr to serve as Attorney General of the United States. Specifically, Senator Carper highlighted William Barr’s failure to affirm that he will recuse himself from the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, despite his public comments about the investigation. Senator Carper also reiterated the need for an independent Department of Justice and the need for the Special Counsel’s investigation to continue free from political interference.
“Colleagues, these are extraordinary times for our nation. We must make it clear to the American people that the Attorney General is not the President’s lawyer. We need independence at the Department of Justice, now more than ever,” said Senator Carper. “And while I hope I am wrong – very wrong – it is my belief that President Trump views this appointment as an opportunity to protect himself, rather than the constitutional rights of all Americans.”
Video of Senator Carper’s full remarks are available here.
The text of Senator Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below:
“Mr. President, I rise this evening to speak regarding the nomination of William Barr to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States. But first, I want to reflect on the circumstances surrounding this vacancy. I believe that every member of this Chamber should use this occasion to decide, ultimately, whether we believe Mr. Barr will be the Attorney General for all Americans or whether Mr. Barr will be the Attorney General for one American.
“When President-elect Trump selected then-Senator Sessions to serve as Attorney General, it brought me no joy to vote against our longtime colleague and friend. The truth was, though, that our views too often diverged on too many important issues, particularly on immigration, health care, civil rights, voting rights, LGBT rights, and environmental protection. After considerable prayer and reflection, I reached the conclusion that Senator Sessions would not be an Attorney General for all Americans.
“Unfortunately, during his tenure at the Department of Justice, he went on to preside over a number of divisive policies and decisions, including the Muslim Ban, overturning protections for Dreamers and asylum seekers, enacting a cruel policy of family separations at our southern border, and failing to defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in court. Mr. President, I have not been shy about expressing my disagreement with these decisions, and others, made by the Department of Justice during the Trump Administration. However, one area where I strongly agreed with Attorney General Sessions was his decision to recuse himself from the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Mr. President, one of my core values is to figure out the right thing to do, and do it. Not what’s politically expedient or easy, but what’s the right thing to do. After it became clear that then-Senator Sessions provided testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that called into question his impartiality on matters related to Russia and the 2016 election, Attorney General Sessions recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign. That was the right thing to do and it certainly wasn’t what President Trump wanted him to do. The President has said as much, or should I say he has tweeted as much, publicly, and the President repeatedly admonished Attorney General Sessions for doing what I think many of us believe was the right thing.
“Here is what the President of the United States tweeted on June 5, 2018: ‘The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself...I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined...and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!’ Mr. President, let me be clear: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is not a “witch hunt.” It is, in fact, the unanimous opinion of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement community that Russia attacked our democracy and interfered in the 2016 election. As a result of the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, 34 individuals and three companies have been indicted or pled guilty to a range of crimes. This includes the Trump Campaign Manager, Trump Deputy Campaign Manager, Trump National Security Advisor, and, most recently, President Trump’s longtime political advisor.
“Special Counsel Mueller—a lifelong Republican, who served with distinction during the Vietnam War and as our FBI Director following the September 11th attacks— is not conducting a partisan witch hunt. He and the team he leads are striving to find out the truth and – in doing so -- help us prevent future attacks on our democracy.
“I believe we should be doing everything in our power to allow Special Counsel Mueller and his team to conduct and complete this investigation, free from political interference and partisan games. That is what Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, both lifelong Republicans nominated by President Trump, have done, and that is what we should expect from our next Attorney General.
“Unfortunately, President Trump does not view political independence as a prerequisite for the job of Attorney General. Instead, he tends to view political independence as a disloyal act, an offense for which one should be fired. Just ask former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Sessions. Recall with me if you will that, after the November election, President Trump fired Attorney General Sessions and named the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General. This was a curious decision, as well as legally questionable decision.
“Why would the President go outside the line of succession at the Department of Justice? I fear it is because of Mr. Whitaker’s public comments regarding the Mueller investigation. Mr. Whitaker previously likened the Special Counsel’s investigation to a “fishing expedition” and a “witch hunt,” and implied that following the truth “could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family -- and by extension, to the country.”
“Really? Was he serious? Getting to the bottom of all this could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family – and by extension, to our country?
Despite publicly expressing these views that clearly call into question his impartiality, Mr. Whitaker did not recuse himself from the Mueller investigation when he assumed the role of Acting Attorney General, even though he received a recommendation to recuse from ethics officials at the Department of Justice.
“Mr. Whitaker’s staggering unfitness for the job is a big part of the reason why my initial reaction was positive when President Trump nominated William Barr to be Attorney General. After all, Mr. Barr previously served as Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General during the George Herbert Walker Bush Administration. By all accounts, Mr. Barr is a well-qualified nominee, someone who has been a fine public servant throughout many years in public service. I strongly believe that we need Senate-confirmed leadership at the Department of Justice, and I want to make it clear that, during normal times, I might be inclined to support Mr. Barr’s nomination. But these are not normal times. These are extraordinary times.
“In addition to firing the Attorney General and the FBI Director for their views on the Russia inquiry, President Trump has reportedly asked those around him why he didn’t have an Attorney General who was looking out for his personal interests. According to reports the President has said, and I quote, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” during moments of crisis. For those who may not know, Roy Cohn was President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, who pushed legal tactics to the limits and also served as a staffer to Senator Joe McCarthy during a dark period on our nation’s history.
“This is how President Trump views the role of Attorney General – not as a lawyer to defend the rights of all Americans, but as a “fixer” who will look out for him. Moreover, in his State of the Union address last week, President Trump highlighted what he sees as, ‘ridiculous partisan investigations.’ He went on to say, ‘If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.’
“It is against this extraordinary backdrop that we must ask ourselves: what are Mr. Barr’s views on presidential power and the Mueller investigation? Well, as it turns out, we don’t have to guess what the answer to that question is. In an unsolicited, 19-page memo that Mr. Barr sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and President Trump’s personal lawyers, Mr. Barr shares his views, and they are clearly hostile to the Special Counsel’s investigation.
“In a memo entitled “Mueller’s Obstruction Theory,” Mr. Barr raises doubt about the Special Counsel’s ability to follow the truth while going on to defend President Trump’s actions and even suggesting that the president has the power to limit the scope of the inquiry. In that same memo, Mr. Barr states that the Special Counsel’s investigation into obstruction of justice may do, and I quote, “lasting damage to the presidency.”
“Mr. President, I believe that reasonable people can disagree, as I frequently did with Attorney General Sessions. It is clear to me, however, that despite whatever your views may be toward the Special Counsel’s investigation, the views expressed in his memo not only warrant Mr. Barr’s recusal from the Special Counsel’s investigation, they cry out for it! Attorney General Sessions did the right thing when confronted with a similar decision.
“However, despite expressing these impartial views to President Trump’s own personal lawyers, Mr. Barr says he will not recuse himself from the Special Counsel’s investigation if he is confirmed. To make matters worse, Mr. Barr refuses to commit to making the Special Counsel’s final report public.
“Mr. President, earlier I asked us to consider whether Mr. Barr will be the Attorney General for all Americans or whether Mr. Barr will be the Attorney General for one American. That one American happens to also go by another name: Individual 1, the legal moniker given to President Trump in the Southern District of New York for directing his personal attorney to violate federal campaign finance law. Like Mr. Whitaker’s public comments prior to his elevation to Acting Attorney General, I fear that Mr. Barr’s memo may have been an audition for the job and that his selection may not be a coincidence. During a Senate hearing in 1989, Mr. Barr plainly stated that the Attorney General ‘is the President’s lawyer.’
“Colleagues, these are extraordinary times for our nation. We must make it clear to the American people that the Attorney General is not the President’s lawyer. We need independence at the Department of Justice, now more than ever. And while I hope I am wrong—very wrong—it is my belief that President Trump views this appointment as an opportunity to protect himself, rather than the constitutional rights of all Americans.
“Ultimately, for all of these reasons I’ve laid out, I have concluded that Mr. Barr, despite his earlier service to our nation, does not meet the standard that is necessary to be the Attorney General at this time. And with that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.”