Washington — Attorney General William Barr took aim at his own Justice Department on Wednesday night, criticizing prosecutors for behaving as “headhunters” in their pursuit of prominent targets and for using the weight of the criminal justice system to launch what he said were “ill-conceived” political probes.
The comments at a speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan amounted to a striking, and unusual, rebuke of the thousands of prosecutors who do the daily work of assembling criminal cases across the country. Barr has faced scrutiny for overruling the decisions of Justice Department prosecutors who work for him, including in criminal cases involving associates of President Trump.
Rejecting the notion that prosecutors should have final say in cases that they bring, Barr described them instead as part of the “permanent bureaucracy” and suggested they need to be supervised, and even reined in, by politically appointed leaders accountable to the president and Congress.
“The men and women who have ultimate authority in the Justice Department are thus the ones on whom our elected officials have conferred that responsibility – by presidential appointment and Senate confirmation,” Barr said, according to his prepared remarks. “That blessing by the two political branches of government gives these