The Most Worrying Things About Trump’s New Attorney General Pick

William Barr.
William Barr. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee William P. Barr appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The day touched on many major topics, from Barr’s claim that he would not be “bullied” into interfering with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to his support for Trump’s demand for border wall.

But beyond his political answers given in a Senate hearing, Barr has said and done some pretty troubling things over the course of his long career (he also served as AG under President George Bush). Here, a look at a few of the most troubling aspect of the president’s AG pick.

Barr has said that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

During a 1991 confirmation hearing for his AG nomination from President Bush, Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he believed the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the U.S., was wrongly decided and should be overturned. Per the Los Angeles Times, Barr told the panel that he felt the court wrongly applied the Constitution’s right to privacy to that case. After he was confirmed, Barr later said in a 1992 interview that he believes the decision “will fall.”

Beyond voicing his opposition for Roe v. Wade, Rewire notes that Barr has actually taken steps to work against reproductive rights. While serving as an attorney with the Department of Justice in 1991, reportedly tried to get the court to lift an injunction that would block protesters from accessing abortion clinics in Kansas, saying he’d rather leave that up to law enforcement. As attorney general, he also fought a 1992 American Bar Association resolution to oppose state and federal abortion regulations.

He detained asylum seekers in a “HIV prison camp.”

While serving as attorney general in the early 1990s, Barr ran a program through the Justice Department that sent around 12,000 aslyum seekers from Haiti to Guantanamo Bay. The program operated for 18 months until a federal judge shut it down, according to CBS News. But one of the most troubling aspects of an already troubling detention program is that, per the Daily Beast, under his leadership, it saw 310 HIV-positive Haitian aslyum seekers be indefinitely detained at Guantanamo. A federal judge deemed the quarantine to be a “HIV prison camp” and ruled that it violated the Constitution.

Barr worked to implement mass incarceration.

As AG under Bush, Barr was one of the “architects” of federal policies that supported the war on drugs and mass incarceration, Vox reports. He worked to enact a 1990 crime law that worsened the war on drugs, and also wrote a letter of support in 1992 for the Department of Justice report “The Case for More Incarceration” (during which he stated “there is no better way to reduce crime than to identify, target, and incapacitate those hardened criminals who commit staggering numbers of violent crimes whenever they are on the streets”). He’s also praised former attorney general Jeff Sessions as “outstanding” and voiced support for his criminal justice policies.

He has not shown support for LGBT rights.

According to the ACLU, Barr has supported Session’s decision to side with businesses that discriminated against gay and lesbian customers by invoking religious beliefs. The Human Rights Watch also notes that, in the Washington Post, Barr praised Sessions for removing guidance that would protect transgender people. And in 1995, Barr wrote in an essay that he wanted the government to promote laws to “restrain sexual immorality.”

Barr supported presidential pardons for people involved in the Iran-Contra Affair.

In 1992, then-president Bush pardoned six people involved in the Iran-Contra Affair, the Reagan-era scandal in which administration officials illegally helped sell weapons to Iran. According to NPR, Barr supported Bush’s decision to pardon those involved, who had been officials during the Reagan White House. (One of them, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, was facing charges for perjury). Barr has gone on to say that he thinks Bush made the right decision and that those involved were treated unfairly, though the independent prosecutor for the case called it a miscarriage of justice. This, you might guess, raises questions over how Barr would handle the Mueller investigation.

Actually, Barr’s already criticized parts of the Mueller investigation in a memo to the Justice Department.

The Wall Street Journal reported in December that Barr wrote in an unsolicited 20-page memo that Mueller’s obstruction of justice inquiry is “fatally misconceived.” That memo, it should be noted, was reportedly sent to the Department of Justice and argued against prosecuting Trump. And Barr apparently knows that this memo could potentially be dangerous to his nomination. Per the WSJ: “After Mr. Trump offered him the job, Mr. Barr briefly told the president that he had written a memo about aspects of the Russia probe that could spur questions during his confirmation hearing, according to a person familiar with the process.” Barr has told the Senate Judiciary Committee sent the memo to White House attorneys as well.

And he opposes net neutrality.

Not only is Barr a former attorney general, he also used to serve as the chief counsel for telecom behemoth Verizon and a member of WarnerMedia’s board of directors. According to Fast Company, Barr has opposed net neutrality rules for years now. Per the ACLU: More recently, he was an outspoken advocate against net neutrality, a critical policy to ensure equal access for all to the Internet. In 2007, he said, “This is a competitive market. This is not what regulators are used to working with: regulated markets where competition is limited. We need to allow the marketplace to work.”

The Most Worrying Things About Trump’s New AG Pick