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October 27, 2019

Senate Judiciary Democrats to AG Barr: Recuse Yourself from Ukraine Matters

Washington—All 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have called on Attorney General William Barr to recuse himself from matters related to Ukraine because of concerns about his role in President Trump’s efforts to damage a political opponent and undermine the Russia investigation.

“Impartial enforcement of the law is essential to give the American public confidence in the Justice Department’s work,” the senators wrote. “Your personal connection to these matters creates the appearance of a conflict of interest and gives rise to questions about whether the Department is being used to advance the President’s personal interests.”

In a separate letter, the senators asked Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus, the department’s ethics officer, whether Attorney General Barr has been advised on this matter by department ethics officials.

Full text of the letter to Attorney General Barr follows: 

October 24, 2019

The Honorable William P. Barr
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Barr:

We urge you to recuse yourself from investigations into the Trump Ukraine matters, including any investigations involving Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, or Igor Fruman, as well as investigations into the origins of the Russia investigation.

Federal ethics guidelines prohibit federal employees from participating in any matter in which their impartiality could be questioned, including matters in which they were personally involved or about which they have personal knowledge. [5 C.F.R. § 2635.502; Justice Manual § 1-4.020]. Previous Attorneys General have sought the counsel of the relevant senior career Department officials to determine whether they should recuse themselves from matters where their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

The White House’s memorandum of President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky suggests that you may have personal knowledge or involvement in President Trump’s requests that Ukraine pursue investigations to serve the President’s personal political interests. During that phone call, President Trump referenced you by name or title at least five times, including mentioning you in tandem with Rudy Giuliani three times. [Call Summary at 3-5].

This raises legitimate questions about your knowledge of the activities of Mr. Giuliani and others, as well as the actions that you have taken and your discussions with the President and White House about these investigations. For example, after receiving the preliminary Justice Department Inspector General report on the Russia investigation’s origins last month, you reportedly traveled to Italy to conduct your own fact-finding along with U.S. Attorney John Durham. [Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2019]. You did so after President Trump told President Zelensky that he would “like to have the Attorney General call” to discuss an investigation meant to discredit Special Counsel Mueller’s findings regarding Russian election interference.

Impartial enforcement of the law is essential to give the American public confidence in the Justice Department’s work. Your personal connection to these matters creates the appearance of a conflict of interest and gives rise to questions about whether the Department is being used to advance the President’s personal interests.

Accordingly, we request that you recuse yourself and identify the appropriate official who will be responsible for these matters. We also request that you confirm whether you consulted Department ethics officials regarding recusal and provide copies of any ethics guidance that Justice Department officials have provided in connection with these matters

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator

Cory A. Booker
United States Senator

Kamala D. Harris
United States Senator

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