Attorney General William Barr gave the Republican Party’s chief Senatorial campaign committee $51,000 in the months leading up to his confirmation, according to a new Quartz report.
Since serving as Attorney General under George HW Bush, Barr gave to the GOP intermittently. He donated only six times from 2009-2018. This changed as Trump ramped up his public attacks on then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion with the Russian government to sabotage the 2016 election.
Shortly after Trump said “I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad… I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed,” Barr began donating more regularly. He started giving $10,000 on the third of every month to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). This schedule continued regularly even after he was nominated by Trump to replace Sessions in December, only ending after his confirmation on Feb. 14, 2019.
Barr’s office did not return requests for comment on this story. These donations are not illegal, but experts at campaign finance accountability organizations say that they should “raise eyebrows.”
“The fact that any one person can give such large amounts to a political party creates a perception problem,” said Adav Noti, a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission and current senior director of the Campaign Legal Center. “Someone giving such large amounts to a senatorial committee before their confirmation certainly raises appearance questions.”
Noti says that Barr’s ability to give such large and focused donations represents “a flaw in the system.”
Perhaps the NRSC foresaw this perception problem, as they refunded Barr $30,000 of his donations about a week before his confirmation. Barr himself has previously been quoted as saying “In my view, prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party,” in reference to the news that some of Mueller’s prosecutors had previously donated to Democratic movements.
These donations began four months after Barr sent a 20-page memo to then-deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, called “Mueller’s ‘obstruction’ theory.” The memo expressed Barr’s views that there can be “no limit on the President’s authority to act on matters which concern him or his own conduct.”
The donations and memo combine to create a possible narrative of Barr doing everything within his power to signal his loyalty to the president if he were tapped in to replace Sessions. Since taking office, Barr falsely claimed on multiple occasions that Mueller’s report absolved Trump of any crimes. The Mueller Report identified eleven occasions in which Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation, but neglected to charge him due to DOJ rules that keep prosecutors from charging a sitting president.
Because Mueller neglected to take a definitive position on whether to prosecute Trump for Obstruction of Justice, Barr decided the president wouldn’t face any charges. He has since been authorized by Trump to investigate the FBI agents who originally investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, shortly after the president declared that those who “spied” on his campaign were guilty of “treason.”
My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2019