WASHINGTON–Attorney General William Barr said Friday that President Donald Trump's political opponents have pursued a "scorched earth, no-holds-barred resistance" meant to "sabotage" his presidency.
"The pursuit of scores of investigations and an avalanche of subpoenas is meant to incapacitate" the administration, Barr said in a biting address to the conservative Federalist Society.
The attorney general, in a full-throated defense of the president, said the political "harassment" contravenes the intent of the Constitution's framers who, he said, meant to provide the chief executive with sweeping authority.
"I am convinced that the deck has been stacked against the executive," Barr said.
Barr's remarks came as Trump has been swept up in an impeachment inquiry over allegations he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
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Before Friday, Barr had said little publicly about the impeachment proceedings, suggesting he might be attempting to distance himself from Trump. But his remarks left no doubt he stands with the president.
He lamented a "steady encroachment of executive authority" that he claimed had "substantially weakened the institution of the presidency." And he said Congress has "drowned" the administration with demands for testimony and documents.
Hours before Barr addressed the Federalist Society, Trump's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to review a lawsuit in which they are attempting to block a congressional subpoena for Trump's tax returns.
Although Barr was applauded several times Friday by the friendly audience, he has drawn criticism from Democrats for his staunch defense of Trump.
A month after taking office in February, he concluded that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation had not gathered enough evidence to charge the president with obstruction of justice.
Barr’s involvement in that decision rekindled concerns among Democratic lawmakers about a 19-page memo he wrote in June 2018 to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein–before Barr was nominated by Trump to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In it, Barr argued against an obstruction investigation into Trump. The memo was shared with White House lawyers.
Barr, 69, has long believed in the need for a strong executive branch. In his first stint as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, he bristled at independent counsel Lawrence Walsh's investigation into the Iran-Contra affair.
Walsh's probe into the Reagan administration's sale of arms to Iran and illegal funding of anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua thrust then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger into prosecutors' crosshairs.
Weinberger was facing felony indictments when Barr advised Bush to pardon him, along with five other officials implicated in the scandal.
In a February 2017 op-ed for The Washington Post, Barr wrote that Trump had the constitutional authority to ban travel to the United States from a list of predominantly Muslim nations, and Trump was right to fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she directed the Justice Department not to defend the order in court.
"Presidential powers are not exercised by a body or group. The Constitution vests 'all executive power' in one and only one person – the president," Barr wrote. "The president need not 'convince' his subordinate that his decision reflects the best view of the law."
Barr generated controversy with his contention that "spying did occur" by the FBI on the Trump campaign in 2016. He has opened an investigation to determine if the FBI's actions were "properly predicated" and whether "government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: William Barr: Democrats are trying to 'sabotage' Trump administration