Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday railed against “militant secularists” who he said are eroding the nation’s moral standards and disrupting the founders’ vision of government, liberty and power.
In an address to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, he called religion the “foundation of a free society” but said it has been “under siege by secularists” who have undermined religion and tried to replace it with a morality hostile to faith.
“The consequences of this hollowing-out of religion have been predictably dire,” Mr. Barr said at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. “Over the past 50 years, we have seen striking increases in urban violence, drug abuse and broken families. Problems like these have fed the rise of an ever-more powerful central government.”
Mr. Barr, a Catholic, has sounded that theme repeatedly and has increasingly put the power of the Justice Department behind it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has deployed U.S. attorneys to demand that houses of worship be treated at least as well as businesses or racial justice protesters.
He received the prayer breakfast’s Christifideles Laici Award for “fidelity to the church, exemplary selfless and steadfast service in the Lord’s vineyard” and other work.
His stances, however, also have drawn fierce opposition within and outside the Catholic Church.
“We consider Mr. Barr’s recent decisions in actions to be abhorrent in the context of the Catholic faith,” the Association of Catholic Priests said in a statement. “We consider especially scandalous his decision to begin again federal executions after 17 years of a moratorium.”
Other Catholic groups complained that Mr. Barr was a poor choice after he oversaw the clearing of anti-Trump protesters from near the White House in June, in an incident that is under investigation by multiple inspectors general.
But Leonard Leo, president of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast’s board and co-chairman of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, said Mr. Barr is “a Catholic public servant” and “a man of courage.”
“His faith informs the attributes of his public service: integrity, honesty, humility, and sincere and wise counsel,” Mr. Leo said.
Mr. Barr has given a series of high-profile speeches over the past year. At an event hosted by Hillsdale College this month, he said the power of the attorney general is to decide which cases get prosecuted and how.
Last year, he raised his concerns about anti-religious sentiment in a speech at the University of Notre Dame, exploring the historical role of religion in the American political experiment.
That speech fueled a feverish debate that Mr. Barr rejoined Wednesday.
He argued that the kind of self-governance at the heart of the American republican system requires self-restraint, “and there is no greater teacher of self-restraint than religion.”
It builds community and reinforces the common good as a goal, he said. That link, he said, is often forgotten or ignored.
He admonished those who invoke the “separation of church and state” — a line from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, which does not appear in the founding documents — as a precept of governance. He said the meaning is misunderstood.
“Separation of church and state did not mean, and never did mean, separation of church and civics,” he said.
Mr. Barr said he is witnessing “small but significant steps” toward the restoration of religion to its proper role in America and pointed to a trio of Supreme Court cases.
In one, the justices allowed employers to receive religious and moral exemptions to a federal mandate that they provide health insurance that includes free contraception.
In the second case, the high court protected religious schools from employment discrimination lawsuits.
Justices in a third case struck down a provision in the Montana Constitution that exempted religious schools from a scholarship program for underprivileged students.
“In a sense, it is dispiriting that the disputes in these cases ever arose,” he said. “In each case, the religious litigants were not asking for anything more than their basic freedom to exercise their faith.
“Nevertheless, the recognition of those rights by the courts is encouraging,” he said.
Mr. Barr delivered his speech as President Trump,and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, also a Catholic, sparred for Catholic voters.
Catholics have been a key voting bloc in presidential elections but have supported both Republicans and Democrats. However, they have backed the winner in nearly every recent election.
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Attorney General Barr condemns corporate America’s appeasement of China
China is engaged in an “economic blitzkrieg” aimed at replacing America as the world’s leading power, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday, asserting that Washington and Beijing are locked in an ideological battle that will determine whether the democratic, free market system is replaced by a dictatorial, communist system. In a major speech in Michigan,…
China is engaged in an “economic blitzkrieg” aimed at replacing America as the world’s leading power, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday, asserting that Washington and Beijing are locked in an ideological battle that will determine whether the democratic, free market system is replaced by a dictatorial, communist system.
In a major speech in Michigan, Mr. Barr said a slate of major American businesses are being duped as they appease China’s communist rulers in a bid to gain market access and favorable trade status with Beijing, which seeks ultimately to dominate the global market.
“The [Chinese Communist Party] rules with an iron fist over one of the great ancient civilizations of the world,” the attorney general said. “It seeks to leverage the immense power, productivity and ingenuity of the Chinese people to overthrow the rules-based international system and to make the world safe for dictatorship.
“The CCP has launched an orchestrated campaign, across all of its many tentacles in Chinese government and society, to exploit the openness of our institutions in order to destroy them,” said Mr. Barr, who called on the “free world” to develop “its own version of the whole-of-society approach” aimed at undercutting Beijing’s push for global economic control.
The speech marked the latest in a Trump administration effort to better educate Americans and the world about the growing threat posed by China and its ruling Communist Party. White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray have given speeches highlighting other aspects of the threat, including those stemming from China’s increasingly subversive espionage operations.
Beijing’s drive for global supremacy includes “hundreds of billions” of dollars in state funding for a technology program called Made in China 2025 that seeks Chinese domination of high-tech industries, and the Belt and Road Initiative, which is central to Beijing’s state-led mercantilism and expansionism. “It is clear that [China] seeks not merely to join the ranks of other advanced industrial economies, but to replace them altogether,” Mr. Barr said Thursday.
“To tilt the playing field to its advantage, China’s communist government has perfected a wide array of predatory and often unlawful tactics: currency manipulation, tariffs, quotas, state-led strategic investment and acquisitions, theft and forced transfer of intellectual property, state subsidies, dumping, cyberattacks and industrial espionage,” the attorney general said.
The Belt and Road initiative, he said, is “little more than a form of modern-day colonialism.”
China also is pursuing a Digital Silk Road strategy that calls for cornering the international market on 5G telecommunications technology. Mr. Barr said the plan could lead to mass surveillance and a loss of freedom.
U.S. officials have said China wants by 2030 to dominate the emerging field of artificial intelligence, which will impact economic and military intelligence gathering capabilities. Beijing also appears to be trying to dominate access to rare earth minerals, which are used in high-technology manufacturing.
Mr. Barr warned that the U.S. “is now dangerously dependent on the PRC for these essential materials.” He said predatory Chinese policies have allowed Beijing to overtake the U.S. in manufacturing and have turned the American “arsenal of democracy” into China’s “arsenal of dictatorship.”
Mr. Barr maintained that China does not want to trade with the U.S., but rather to “raid” the country. He pointed to the medical goods and pharmaceuticals sectors and said the U.S. has become dangerously dependent on China for supplies that could be cut off by CCP rulers.
The attorney general said favorable U.S. government policies and investment by American companies have helped China achieve remarkable economic development based on a hope that engagement would produce a nonthreatening Chinese system. Mr. Barr said such a system has never materialized.
“As its ruthless crackdown of Hong Kong demonstrates once again, China is no closer to democracy today than it was in 1989 when tanks confronted pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square,” he said.
Mr. Barr leveled his harshest criticism for appeasing China at the movie industry in Hollywood and at Silicon Valley technology giants. “If you are an American business leader, appeasing the PRC may bring short-term rewards,” he said. “But in the end, the PRC’s goal is to replace you.”
Instead of changing the communist system, U.S. engagement has resulted in “China leveraging its economic power to change America,” said Mr. Barr, asserting that American companies gave in to Chinese government pressure for short-term profits.
“Hollywood’s actors, producers and directors pride themselves on celebrating freedom and the human spirit, and every year at the Academy Awards, Americans are lectured about how this country falls short of Hollywood’s ideals of social justice,” the attorney general said.
“But Hollywood now regularly censors its own movies to appease the Chinese Communist Party, the world’s most powerful violator of human rights,” he said. “This censorship infects not only the versions of movies that are released in China, but also many that are shown in United States’ theaters to American audiences.”
He pointed to examples of several films that have been altered to eliminate stories or characters that might have offended Beijing. In one instance, he said, Disney was pressured into apologizing for a movie about Tibet.
The alterations are a “massive propaganda coup” for the CCP, Mr. Barr said.
With regard to U.S. tech companies, he said, several major firms have “allowed themselves to become pawns of Chinese influence.”
“Over the years, corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple have shown themselves all too willing to collaborate with the CCP,” Mr. Barr said.
He cited an example involving Apple in which the tech giant eliminated the news app Quartz after complaints from Chinese authorities that it was sympathetic to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Mr. Barr said Apple cloud computing in China has made personal data — emails, texts and other user information — vulnerable to Chinese government exploitation.
The attorney general said Apple refused to help investigators access the damaged iPhone of an al Qaeda terrorist involved in the shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in December. Yet Chinese authorities can access Apple cellphones sold in China, he said.
Mr. Barr said China has stepped up covert efforts to “cultivate and coerce” American business executives to advance its political objectives. Justice Department officials, he said, have seen Chinese officials and their proxies reaching out to U.S. corporate leaders and pressuring them to support policies and actions favored by the Chinese Communist Party.
“Their objective varies, but their pitch is generally the same: The businessperson has economic interests in China, and there is a suggestion that things will go better, or worse, for them depending on their response to the PRC’s request,” Mr. Barr said. “Privately pressuring or courting American corporate leaders to promote policies or U.S. politicians presents a significant threat.”
He suggested that those who take action in support of Chinese government policies could be violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, requiring paid lobbyists to register.
Chinese agents also are infiltrating, censoring and coopting American academic and research institutes, Mr. Barr said. “Globalization does not always point in the direction of greater freedom,” he said. “A world marching to the beat of communist China’s drums will not be a hospitable one for institutions that depend on free markets, free trade or the free exchange of ideas.”
He said Americans are recognizing what he called “corporate appeasement” of China.
Several tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zoom and LinkedIn, however, recently took action after China imposed a harsh national security law in Hong Kong. The companies announced that they were suspending compliance with Chinese requests for user data.
“We will see if these companies hold firm and how l
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DOJ attorney tells federal appeals court Flynn case has become ‘public spectacle’
A federal appeals court Friday heard oral arguments on whether to dismiss the charges against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, in a case that tests the power of the Justice Department to abandon politically charged prosecutions. “This has already become a public spectacle and, I think, becoming more of a public spectacle,”…
A federal appeals court Friday heard oral arguments on whether to dismiss the charges against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, in a case that tests the power of the Justice Department to abandon politically charged prosecutions.
“This has already become a public spectacle and, I think, becoming more of a public spectacle,” said Jeffrey B. Wall, principal deputy attorney general for the department.
“It threatens to harm not just the integrity of the Executive [Branch] and its prosecutorial discretion and its deliberative processes but I think it threatens to harm the Judiciary [Branch] as well,” he continued.
Mr. Wall’s remarks came before a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which must decide whether to drop criminal charges against Flynn for lying to FBI agents.
Flynn had initially told a federal court twice he was guilty but later recanted, professing his innocence.
Attorney General William B. Barr last month directed the Justice Department to drop the charges, saying newly surfaced evidence revealed the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn because it planned to close the case after failing to uncover wrongdoing.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has challenged the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case and appointed a retired federal charge to argue in favor of continuing the case review whether Flynn should be held in contempt.
Mr. Barr’s actions have shifted the case from broader questions about guilt and innocence to allegations of political interference and when it is appropriate for an attorney general to intervene.
“It’s an intrusive process,” Mr. Wall said adding that the case is “playing out in a politicized environment.”
He warned the court that real harm could occur if the government is forced to answer questions about Mr. Barr’s policy judgement and why prosecutors in the case refused to sign off on the motion to dismiss.
“Courts were not supposed to go down this road,” he said.
Beth Wilkinson, who is representing Judge Sullivan argued that the Justice Department jumped the gun going to the appeals court, saying attorneys should have gone straight to Judge Sullivan if they had any concerns about dismissing the case.
“The government’s motion is still pending and it may very well be granted,” she told the court.
In a filing earlier this week, John Gleeson, the former federal judge tapped by Judge Sullivan to review the case, skewered Mr. Barr, saying his handling of the case is “irregular” and the courts would “scoff” at dropping the case if it didn’t involve a Trump associate.
Mr. Wall said the filing flat-out alleges misconduct against the attorney general and has turned the case into a political spectacle.
One of the judges on the panel, Neomi Rao, asked Ms. Wilkinson who Judge Gleeson was representing. She said he represents the court’s authority to argue against the government’s motion.
Earlier in the hearing, Flynn attorney Sidney Powell asked the appellate court to end the case. She argued Judge Sullivan didn’t have the authority to appoint a judge to review the case or keep it alive after the Justice Department sought to end it.
“The judge has no authority to do anything further in this case,” she said. “The parties have decided, the government has quit, and he also has no authority to go into the reasons behind the executive’s determination to dismiss the case.”
But the appellate court judges challenged her asking why the judge had to dismiss the case, expressing concern about constraining his authority. Judge Sullivan has said he hasn’t decided whether to dismiss the case and scheduled a hearing on the matter next month.
“The courts have said he’s not merely a rubber stamp either, so there’s nothing wrong with him holding a hearing,” said Judge Karen Henderson. “I don’t know of any authority that says he can’t hold a hearing before taking action.”
Powell insisted Judge Sullivan’s actions were inappropriate, but she also pleaded with the court, saying the case continues to take a toll on Flynn.
“It’s a travesty of justice that this man has been dragged through for three years on a case that was absolutely concocted by FBI agents on falsified evidence with some help from the Department of Justice,” she said.
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US attorney general ‘considers resignation’ over Trump tweets
United States Attorney General William Barr has told people close to him he was considering quitting his post after President Donald Trump ignored his warning about posting on social media about Justice Department cases, an administration official told The Associated Press news agency. The revelation late on Tuesday came just days after Barr took a…
United States Attorney General William Barr has told people close to him he was considering quitting his post after President Donald Trump ignored his warning about posting on social media about Justice Department cases, an administration official told The Associated Press news agency.
The revelation late on Tuesday came just days after Barr took a public swipe at the president, saying in a television interview that Trump’s tweets about Justice Department cases and staffers made it “impossible” for him to do his job.
Barr: Trump tweets on cases make it ‘impossible’ to do my job
Trump praises Barr, attacks prosecutors in Roger Stone case
US: Prosecutors quit case after DOJ reversal on Stone prison time
The next day, Trump ignored Barr’s request and insisted that he had the “legal right” to intervene in criminal cases and sidestep the Justice Department’s historical independence.
The administration official was not authorised to discuss Barr’s private remarks and requested anonymity.
It is unclear how seriously Barr had considered resigning, or whether he was instead trying to pressure Trump to not post provocative tweets about the Justice Department.
Barr’s spokeswoman said late on Tuesday that the attorney general “has no plans to resign.”
Barr is one of the president’s closest allies in the administration and has been a staunch defender of Trump’s policy decisions.
But considering resigning from his post suggests he sees the Justice Department’s reputation as an institution that makes decisions on criminal cases independently, unmoved and unbound by political sway, as more important than his allegiance to the president.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he was considering suing those involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and opined that his confidant Roger Stone deserved a new trial after being convicted of witness tampering and obstruction.
Trump insists on right to speak his mind
Barr’s comments about Trump’s tweets came during an interview with ABC News just days after his Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors – who had recommended in a court filing that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison.
The department took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek. All four prosecutors from Stone’s trial quit the case and one left the Justice Department altogether.
The reversal came after Trump blasted the original sentencing recommendation as “very horrible and unfair,” though officials have insisted the decision to make a new recommendation came before Trump’s tweet.
“I’m happy to say that, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr said in the ABC News interview. But he also noted that the public statements of the president “make it impossible” for him to do his job.
Speaking to reporters earlier on Tuesday, Trump told reporters he understood his tweets were making Barr’s job harder, but he showed no signs of relenting.
He said he had “total confidence in my attorney general” but insisted that “everybody has the right to speak their mind.”
Barr, serving in his second stint as attorney general, sought to paint himself as an independent leader who would not bow to political pressure.
Democrats have repeatedly accused Barr of acting more like the president’s personal lawyer than the attorney general.
Some Democrats have called for Barr to resign, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on the Justice Department’s inspector general to open an investigation into Barr’s role in the sentencing reversal.
More than 1,100 former Justice Department prosecutors called on Barr to resign in a letter released on Sunday, insisting that Barr’s decision to intervene in Stone’s case tarnished the department’s reputation.
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