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Forum Barr conduct crossed the line

May 9, 2019

Amid the furor surrounding potential impeachment of Donald Trump, the unethical and likely illegal conduct of Attorney General William Barr appears to be lost in a sea of flotsam, accusations and counter-accusations.

There is no question that Trump has committed “high crimes and other misdemeanors” to justify articles of impeachment. Unfortunately to be successfully removed from office requires a two-thirds vote of the United States Senate, which would leave those in favor short by many votes. Some will argue that it is the principle that counts. Others point out the political facts of life: Trump would call it a “win” if not actually being removed, allowing him to then say the factual allegations against him are “fake news.”

Attorney General William Barr is subject to the same remedy as is Trump — impeachment. The result would be the same — not enough Republicans in the Senate would stand up and be counted.

However, the fact that Barr is an attorney subjects him to Bar Association overview and it is in that arena that a complaint should be filed with the District of Columbia Bar Association’s Grievance Committee. I am certain that our U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy would be happy to lead that “charge.”

Barr’s client is not Donald Trump. Rather, as attorney general and head of the Department of Justice, he represents all of us.

Barr has lied to the American people, his clients, and has shamefully attempted to act as a defense attorney for Trump.

He has openly and notoriously done the following:

(1) inappropriately acted as Trump’s spokesperson;

(2) improperly delivered the Mueller report to the president long in advance of public disclosure;

(3) redacted what are likely critical parts of the Mueller report that should be seen and judged by the public;

(4) put a spin on the Mueller report that is both fabrication and an outright lie;

(5) tried to sell us the notion that the report is the end of any inquiry versus the fact that it is really just the beginning;

(6) tried to get us to believe the Mueller report cleared the president versus what Mueller actually said: “. . . Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office ... no person is above the law.”

The Connecticut Rules of Practice, basically the same as those of the American Bar Association Rules of Ethics, say the following: “a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest”; and, “a lawyer shall not represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if (1) the representation will result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.” The rules also state that “a lawyer shall not bring or defend an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.”

As well, it says, “a lawyer shall not knowingly make false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer” and, finally, “in the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person.”

It is easy to see that Barr has breached every one of those rules. There should be a grievance filed against him for trying to hoodwink his clients, namely, all of us. A successful grievance should result in disbarment. Trump lawyers, before Barr, ended up being disbarred — Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen are two that come to mind. There may be others. Barr should have his name added to the list of those that have pushed too far in support of Trump.

Edward L. Marcus is former chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee in Connecticut and former state Senate majority leader.

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