Does AG Barr want US Marshals to murder suspects because he doesn’t know how to prosecute them?

Bill Barr was pleased when US Marshals killed a suspect.


Attorney General William Barr called the US Marshals’ assassination of a suspect a “significant accomplishment.” It’s never a surprise to see the AG parroting his boss, Trump, who bragged that he and Barr had sent in the US Marshals. But perhaps Bill Barr has another reason to favor police brutality: he may have no idea how to actually prosecute a case.

“Barr has never actually investigated, charged or tried a case, ” wrote US attorney Phillip Halpern. Halpern resigned from the Department of Justice (DOJ) in protest, but he offered up a blistering op-ed in the San Diego Tribune on his way out of the door. “He’s a well-trained bureaucrat but has no actual experience as a prosecutor.”

Halpern served for 36 years, under six presidents, but he left like other experienced lawyers who could no longer stand to be involved as Barr shredded the DOJ. Halpern cited AG Barr’s “resentment toward rule-of-law prosecutors,” and “his slavish obedience to Donald Trump’s will in his selective meddling with the criminal justice system.”

Under Barr, the DOJ has become more and more of a machine that protects the president’s cronies —when they are not assigned by Barr to work as Trump’s defense attorneys.

And there is no doubt that Trump’s AG knows how to bend the system to his will. In his first go-around as Attorney General, Barr was the architect behind the George H.W. Bush pardons that allowed Bush Sr. to quietly sweep Reagan’s Iran-Contra negotiation with terrorists under the rug.

But when it comes to doing the work, Bill Barr does sound like one of those bosses who likes to swing his weight around without knowing the job. Comparing his own attorneys to little kids in a “Montessori preschool.” Musing out loud about agents of the FBI, asking, “whose agent do you think you are?” (AG Barr may not know the answer, but NPR‘s Carrie Johnson points out that, “the FBI director, Christopher Wray, told Congress that his agents work on behalf of the American people.”)

AG Barr has led a lifelong crusade against criminal justice reform, keen that members of the public “comply [with police] first, and, if warranted, complain later.” He wants the public out of the way for his “fight against criminal predators in our society.”

But if Barr actually had to take a case to court, he would be out of his depth. It might be easier to have US Marshals do his wet work than figure out how to prosecute them.

Witness testimony and a reconstruction by the New York Times suggest the US Marshals did not identify themselves, or make any attempt to arrest the suspect. In fact, “they knew who he was, they didn’t want to arrest him, and 15 minutes that ended,” crowed Trump.

A sitting US president defended a white nationalist terrorist after he killed two activists, then “sent in the US Marshals” to murder another activist in broad daylight. Yeah, that happened.

But AG Barr is an incompetent thug in his own right.

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