Views on the News: New Attorney General
Isaac Graber ’19
I believe William Barr’s policy positions and political history will not impact his actions as Attorney General if confirmed by the Senate. The Department of Justice defines the Attorney General as “the head of the Department of Justice and chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government.” Therefore, I trust and hope that Barr will do just as his position states; if confirmed, I believe Barr will interpret and enforce the law in a just manner regardless of where those impacted lie on the political spectrum. If confirmed, Barr will have a lofty task early on in his term interpreting the results of the Robert Mueller investigation. I trust that Barr will make “judgements based solely on the law” when reviewing the investigation, as he stated he would in his written testimony to the Senate on January 14.
Isaac Graber is a Business Major and President of the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Professor Daniel Breen (LGLS)
Unfortunately, confirmation of William Barr as Attorney General will mean little in the way of substantive change in the current administration’s policies. If his previous stint as the head of the Justice Department is any indication, Barr will devote too little attention to civil rights enforcement and all too much attention to continuing the present war on immigrants. Moreover, there is no reason to think that Barr will reverse course in regard to Jeff Sessions’ preference for harsh sentencing in drug cases, the same disastrous policy that helped give the United States the highest prison incarceration rate in the world. Still, it is hard to imagine this president nominating someone better; and if Barr is serious about supporting the Mueller investigation, and if he really does believe that the president is subject to the rule of law, perhaps something good will come out of this nomination.
Daniel Breen is a Professor of Legal Studies and American Studies at Brandeis University.
Lauren Dropkin, Esq.
The role of the Attorney General is to enforce the law; not only to oversee Mueller investigation, but also protect the civil rights of all Americans. For that reason, the President of the NAACP is opposed to his confirmation. Barr’s discretion comes into play when it comes to which cases to pursue; he does not create the law which is applied. During the confirmation hearings, it would seem that Barr said all the right things about not letting politics interfere with his decisions or application of the law. I do not believe Barr's confirmation will interfere with Mueller’s investigation. Based on his written statement, I expect him to enforce immigration laws “to ensure that our immigration system works properly,” which will likely be objectionable to those who already oppose Trump’s immigration policies and actions. His statements regarding preserving the integrity of our elections seem to focus on foreign interference, but are silent on the subject of the infringement of voting rights that have been in the courts in the last decade. Essentially, I anticipate a continuation of the status quo.
Lauren Dropkin, Esq. is a Guberman Fellow for Introduction to Law and Business Law and is a Lecturer in the Legal Studies Department.
Noah Laurie ’19
The Attorney General of the United States, a post vacated several months ago by Jeff Sessions, currently remains one of the most consequential positions in the government. President Trump has nominated William Barr, who previously served as Attorney General in George H.W. Bush’s administration. Barr has a reputation for integrity and honesty. Much of the concern at his confirmation hearing centered around Mr. Barr’s views on the Mueller investigation. He gave convincing and compelling answers that suggested he will allow the special counsel to finish his investigation of President Trump. However, Barr maintains a theory of executive power that, while idealized in conservative legal circles, is very broad and will likely further empower a chief executive disinclined to acquiesce to oversight. Ultimately, if Barr upholds his independence from the President and stays true to some of the principles he espoused during his confirmation hearing his appointment can positively impact the state of affairs in Washington.
Noah Laurie is majoring in Politics, minoring in French and History, and is the Editor in Chief of the Brandeis Law Journal.