By Caden Pearson
Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr criticized the indictment of former President Donald Trump, calling it a “disgrace” and a “political hit job” that will harm American politics for the next few years.
Barr, who served as the U.S. attorney general under Trump from 2019 to 2020 and under George H. W. Bush from 1991 to 1993, provided his thoughts on Trump being indicted by a grand jury for reasons that are not yet known as they remain under seal.
Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges in the history of the United States.
During an interview at the National Review Institute Ideas Summit, Barr described the case against Trump as prosecutorial abuse and assessed it as “pathetically weak.” The former attorney general believes the case will “hurt our politics” over the next few years leading up to the 2024 presidential election.
“Judging from the news reports … it’s the archetypal abuse of the prosecutorial function to engage in a political hit job, and it’s a disgrace,” Barr said when asked for his opinion.
Barr suggested that the Democrats’ goal is to focus attention on Trump for the next two years leading up to the next presidential election in order to ultimately secure a Democrat president.
“Politically, it’s going to be damaging, I think, to the Republican Party, simply because I think it’s a no-lose situation for the Democrats,” he said.
“I think the impetus is really to help Trump get the nomination, focus the attention on him for two years, have this thing swirling around, plus whatever else comes, which I think will be damaging to whoever gets the nomination.”
New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, has been conducting an investigation into Trump’s purported involvement in a $130,000 payment made by his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, to adult entertainment actress Stormy Daniels. The payment was allegedly made in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election to prevent Daniels from disclosing her claim of having an affair with Trump, which he denies.
Barr suggested Bragg would have a hard time prosecuting the alleged federal campaign violation, saying that the payment would have been made even if Trump hadn’t been running for president.
Speculating on the case, as the charges are not yet publicly known, Barr noted that Bragg appears to have juiced up a technical misdemeanor into a felony. This is something, he added, that the federal government chose not to prosecute as a campaign violation.
“So for the state DA to try to use this as a way of bootstrapping himself into a felony is sort of outrageous,” he said.
According to legal analysts, Trump’s defense lawyers are expected to raise a number of issues when he’s arraigned, including that the statute of limitations bars the alleged charges and that the case is based on a faulty legal theory.
In statements that supported these assessments, Barr said Bragg would have to prove that Trump falsified a record “with intent to defraud.” He noted that the falsification of the record must be done with the intent to defraud a victim who suffers harm.
“It’s not enough to say, well, the falsification is the fraud,” Barr explained. “There still has to be some victim of fraud … some value is somehow taken away from and benefited, you know, the perpetrator.”
“I don’t see an explanation for that anywhere,” he continued.
Furthermore, regarding federal law related to campaign finance, Barr said he believes Bragg is misapplying it in this case.
“On the federal issue, they’ve gotten the statute completely wrong, in my mind, and I don’t think the Department [of Justice] would support this interpretation of the statute that they’re taking, which is that paying … hush money is a campaign contribution,” he said.
Barr suggested that the hush money payment was not a campaign contribution because it did not augment the resources available to the campaign, nor was it a personal expense that was only paid due to the election.
Instead, he contended that the payment was made to protect Trump’s reputation and the Trump brand, which would have been paid regardless of the election. Therefore, he believes that the charge of campaign finance violation is not applicable in this case.
“It wasn’t done because of the election,” he said, referring to the payment. “It was done to protect Trump’s reputation.”
“So I think the whole thing is a very weak case,” he added. “But it’s going to hurt our politics, obviously, for the next two or three years.”
Trump is expected to appear in court before New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan at 2:15 p.m. on April 4, a court spokesperson confirmed on Friday. The hearing will be open to members of the public and the press but will not be livestreamed.
Bragg’s office has said they are coordinating with Trump’s attorneys for his surrender to the Manhattan DA’s Office.