A-G Barr to testify to Congress amid concerns over Trump legal issues

US Attorney-General William Barr is facing allegations that he has bent Justice Department policies to help President Donald Trump politically.
US Attorney-General William Barr is facing allegations that he has bent Justice Department policies to help President Donald Trump politically.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON • US Attorney-General William Barr has agreed to testify to Congress amid allegations that he has bent Justice Department policies to help President Donald Trump politically.

The House Judiciary Committee said in a letter that Mr Barr will testify on March 31 - although he had been refusing to appear for a year.

The letter, signed by committee chair Jerry Nadler and several Democratic members of the panel, said they have deep concerns about Mr Barr's conduct in legal matters involving the President.

"Since President Trump took office, we have repeatedly warned you and your predecessors that the misuse of our criminal justice system for political purposes is both dangerous to our democracy and unacceptable to the House Judiciary Committee," they said.

They cited acts from "the past week alone" that included Mr Barr's decision - allegedly under pressure from Mr Trump - to overrule his own prosecutors and seek a lighter prison sentence for veteran Republican political consultant Roger Stone, who has been convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

The letter also cited Mr Barr's revelation that he has opened a channel in the department to collect information for investigations involving Ukraine, the country at the centre of the recent impeachment trial, which ended in Mr Trump's acquittal by the Senate.

The committee also questioned the recent removal of the top federal prosecutor for Washington, Ms Jessie Liu, who oversaw the prosecution of Stone as well as two other former top Trump aides, 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort and former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Meanwhile, former US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch - who was a key figure in Mr Trump's impeachment trial - has criticised US foreign policy as amoral and based on threats.

Ms Yovanovitch - who Mr Trump abruptly recalled last May from her post as US ambassador to Ukraine - spoke at Washington's Georgetown University on Wednesday, where she received a prize from the school's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

"Right now, the State Department is in trouble," Ms Yova-novitch said. "Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership skills.

"To be blunt, an amoral, 'keep-em-guessin' foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear and confusion for trust cannot work over the long haul," she added.

Last October, she testified to Congress that she was recalled due to "unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives".

The 33-year diplomatic veteran received the Trainor Award for achieving "distinction in the conduct of diplomacy", according to Georgetown. Previous recipients included former US diplomat Madeleine Albright and former United Nations chief Kofi Annan.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2020, with the headline 'A-G Barr to testify to Congress amid concerns over Trump legal issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe