Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Wednesday accused Attorney General Bill Barr of running the Justice Department as the “Department of Trump.”
“This has been the most corrupt administration in modern American history,” Biden said. “The Justice Department has turned into the president’s private law firm.”
“It’s become the Department of Trump,” Biden said at a summit for Black business owners and educators in Charlotte, North Carolina, a key swing state in the 2020 election.
Biden said that if elected, the Justice Department will be “totally independent” of him as president.
“I will not direct them who to prosecute, how to prosecute, what to prosecute,” Biden said. “I will not enter their decisions based upon the judgments they make about what cases they bring.”
The remarks come after a New York Times report last week revealed that the attorney general had asked the Justice Department’s civil rights division to investigate the possibility of criminal charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing residents to establish a police-free protest zone this past summer.
According to the report, Barr also told federal prosecutors to consider sedition charges for rioters and people who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months.
Days after the death of Georg Floyd, Barr ordered the violent dispersal of demonstrators during the now-infamous presidential photo-op that led to the tear-gassing of peaceful anti-racism protesters in Lafayette Square.
Barr added fuel to a Trump conspiracy about the safety of the ballot box amid the expansion of mail-in voting and recently told a Chicago Tribune columnist that if President Trump is not reelected, then the nation would be “irrevocably committed to the socialist path.”
While Biden suggested on Wednesday that the politicization of the Justice Department was “the most dangerous” move made by the Trump administration, Barr went so far as to make the brazen claim that politics tempers prosecutorial power.
“The most basic check on prosecutorial power is politics,” Barr said at an event at Hillsdale College last week, as if to defend his place as Trump’s de facto personal attorney. “It is counter-intuitive to say that, as we rightly strive to maintain an apolitical system of criminal justice,” he added.
Barr lodged himself deeper into Trump’s corner by calling strict measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties other than slavery.”
Earlier this month, Barr also appeared to side with Trump’s dismissal of issues regarding racial justice, suggesting that systemic racism, particularly in criminal justice, was not “an epidemic.”
“I don’t think there are two justice systems,” Barr told CNN in an interview earlier this month
Biden put himself in direct opposition to both Trump and Barr on Wednesday, telling the summit group in Charlotte that “we have a gigantic opportunity to fundamentally change the systemic racism and the systemic problems that exists.” Among other plans, Biden reissued a commitment to spend $70 billion on historically Black colleges and universities, address student debt and dramatically increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.