Reacting to Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton said the notion that the President can fire any prosecutor investigating him if he feels the accusations are false is “the road to tyranny.”
Clinton made the comments during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday evening. During the show, Maddow pointed to something Barr had said in his public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The point I was trying to make earlier is that, in the situation of the President, who has constitutional authority to supervise proceedings, if in fact a proceeding was not well founded, if it was a groundless proceeding, if it was based on false allegations, the President does not have to sit there, constitutionally, and allow it to run its course,” Barr said during his testimony. “The President could terminate that proceeding, and it would not be a corrupt intent, because he was being falsely accused.”
Maddow said Barr was making the argument that “the President can’t be investigated if the President doesn’t want to be investigated.”
“And that, that is the road to tyranny,” Clinton said. “That is what authoritarians believe and those who service them argue.”
“The positions being taken and advocated by Barr were unlike anything that I’ve ever heard of, that were ever accepted with any level of seriousness before,” Clinton added.
She said when she was a young lawyer on the Watergate investigation into then-President Richard Nixon in 1974, “that would have been unthinkable for either a Democrat or a Republican to argue.”
“The ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ occurred because the attorney general and other high-ranking officials in the Justice Department would not do what President Nixon wanted them to do, which was basically, stop investigating me,” Clinton said.
Clinton said Barr’s argument “makes the role of the House even more important, because when you have high-ranking officials in this administration jockeying to do the President’s bidding so that they protect him as opposed to protect the rule of law, then the burden falls particularly heavily on the House, and especially on the Judiciary Committee.”
“This goes to the core of whether we are a nation of laws or a nation of men, and strong men at that,” she said.
Barr defended his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Wednesday at his first appearance before Congress since Mueller’s redacted report was released by the Justice Department.
In the hearing, Democrats clashed with Barr over his handling of Mueller’s findings and his decision not to prosecute for obstruction of justice. Some of the Democratic senators accused Barr of lying to Congress and the public about Mueller’s concerns, and multiple senators called for Barr’s resignation as attorney general.
Before the redacted version of Mueller’s report was released, Barr sent a letter to Congress summarizing the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s report and told lawmakers he did not believe President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice.
Nearly a year prior to sending the letter to Congress, Barr authored a memo as a private citizen saying he thought the obstruction investigation was “fatally misconceived.”
Clinton said she is “very, very concerned” about Barr’s argument.
“It was incredibly arrogant. The level of disregard, even contempt of the Congress’s role was unmistakable,” Clinton said.