U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr on Wednesday slammed Justice Department employees, comparing them to preschoolers, after being criticized by prosecutors and even rank-and-file attorneys for derailing the Mueller investigation and interfering in cases in a way that undermines longstanding legal policies.
“Name one successful organization or institution where the lowest level employees’ decisions are deemed sacrosanct, there aren’t. There aren’t any letting the most junior members set the agenda,” Barr said during his speech, according to CNN.
“It might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency,” the attorney general added.
In the speech, Barr questioned any criticism he’s received for “interfering” in cases. The attorney general has ultimate authority, he said.
“These people are agents of the attorney general. As I say, FBI agents, whose agent do you think you are?” Barr asked on Tuesday, adding that career lawyers, too, might be influenced by politics. “And I say, ‘What exactly am I interfering with?’ When you boil it right down, it’s the will of the most junior member of the organization who has some idea he wants to do something. What makes that sacrosanct?”
“They do not have the political legitimacy to be the public face for tough decisions and they lack the political buy-in necessary to publicly defend those decisions,” Barr also said.
The speech comes after Barr has been escalating alarmist and politicized rhetoric in a series of interviews, and advocating against Democrats in the election.
“In short, the attorney general, senior DOJ officials, and US attorneys are indeed political. But they are political in a good and necessary sense,” he said.
The comments are likely to inflame already strained relations between the politically appointed Justice Department leadership in Washington and the career attorneys across the country who serve through multiple presidencies.