Attorney General William Barr defended Trump’s use of executive power and slammed “the monolithic nature” of the American media during a long, wide ranging interview with Hugh Hewitt, Tuesday morning.
The attorney general also broke a bit of news regarding U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal probe into the Russia investigation, telling Hewitt that there are no election-year time constraints limiting the prosecutor’s ability to bring indictments in the case.
The talk show host began the interview by asking Barr to share his thoughts on presidential power.
“Has the President done anything, anything at all to give rise in you to a concern that he does not respect the Constitution or intend to abide by its separation of powers?” Hewitt asked.
“Never. Never at all,” the AG replied.
Democrats and anti-Trumpers in the media frequently accuse the president of behaving like a “dictator” or “authoritarian,” but Barr insisted that nothing the president has done has violated the norms of presidential authority.
Barr explained: “when you actually look at his record, his actions have been, you know, well within the traditional rules of law and have been litigated patiently through the courts thus far. Usually, the courts have ended up siding with him.”
[On the other hand, int should be noted, the media’s favorite ex-president Barack Obama routinely overstepped the bounds of executive power. His administration had an exceedingly poor record of failure defending its overreaches before the Supreme Court with a win rate of just above 45 percent and an astonishing 44 unanimous losses.]
Moving on to the next topic, Hewitt made note of the tendency of some local officials to target specifically communities of faith during the coronavirus pandemic, while ignoring the activities of other organizations. He asked the AG if the officials were violating the Free Exercise Clause.
Barr answered that the DOJ “did more than put them [the local officials] on notice.”
We filed a statement of interest in a case in Mississippi where they were discriminating against religious practice and the putting restrictions on religion that they were not putting on commercial activities that had all the same features.
And we filed a statement of interest, and I understand that the government has pulled back from those restrictions at least to some degree so far. And I issued a statement pointing out that whatever measures are placed against religion have to be placed against all comparable commercial and other activities. You can’t single out religion for special burdens.
And it’s not just religion, though. You know, I think as we go forward, you know, I personally think that given the uncertainties involved at the beginning, the President’s initial approach of a period of time to bend the curve were appropriate. But I think we have made a lot of progress in bending the curve, and I think we now, as I say, have to fine tune these things.
Hewitt went on to ask the AG about Durham’s criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the surveillance of President Trump’s campaign, transition, and early administration.
Barr assured Hewitt that the investigation remains on track and has not been undisturbed by the pandemic.
The talk show host asked him about potential guidelines concerning the announcement of indictments or the closing of the investigations prior to the election.
“When is that deadline for U.S. Attorney Durham? And do you think he will make it either to disclose indictments or to disclose that the investigation is over?” he asked.
Barr indicated that there was nothing stopping the U.S. attorney from announcing indictments before the election.
“As far as I’m aware, none of the key people that, whose actions are being reviewed at this point by Durham, are running for president,” he explained.
When pressed by Hewitt on the legality of election year indictments, Barr insisted that such rules only apply if the indictments are directly related to a candidate.
“I think in its core, the idea is you don’t go after candidates,” he explained. “You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category.”
The AG told Hewitt that he was “very troubled” by the information Durham has uncovered and that they’re still sorting out “exactly what happened.”
President Trump shared a report on Twitter late Monday evening that said indictments could be coming as soon as this week in Durham’s review of the Russia investigation.
But when asked whether indictments are imminent, Barr replied: “No, it’s not imminent. But I’m not sure what imminent means.”
The talk show host lastly brought up the media’s extreme bias in the hyper-partisan Trump era.
“The President said last night he views it unfortunate that the press feels obliged to be as hostile sometimes as it is. Do you share his apprehension about what is now an inherent hostility between press and president?” Hewitt asked.
“Absolutely,” the AG replied. “I think it has very pernicious impact on the Republic to have a media that is so concentrated and monolithic in its views, and also so you know, partisan, really.”
You know, de Tocqueville said that he thought a press would essentially prevent, help prevent America from becoming a despotism, but that’s only if it remains, you know, a highly-diverse set of voices. And if it ever combines into one viewpoint, then you know, then it will actually become counterproductive for the Republic. So I am very disturbed by the monolithic nature of our press.
You can listen to an audio recording of the entire interview here.