The New York City Bar Association is demanding that U.S. Attorney General William Barr recuse himself from the Department of Justice probe into the Trump-Ukraine phone call that is central to the impeachment inquiry against the president, citing potential conflicts of interest.
A whistleblower within the intelligence community raised concerns in a formal letter filed in mid-August, of a quid pro quo between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after Trump allegedly attempted to persuade the foreign leader to investigate the Biden family for possible corruption in exchange for U.S. military aid during a July 25 phone call.
According to a rough log of the call released in September, Trump said: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.”
At the time, several hundred million dollars in military aid to Ukraine, which is under siege from Moscow, had been frozen by the Trump administration.
The Bar Association, in a statement Wednesday laying out its case for recusal, said: "As White House records made clear, the president told his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, that Mr. Barr "would be in touch with him" to follow up on the president's requests. The whistleblower found this telephone call to be of "urgent concern" because of the president's apparent intermingling of U.S. foreign policy interests with his personal political interests in apparent violation of U.S. law."
The association insisted that their focus was not on "the legality of the president's actions or even the merits of the whistleblower's complaint," nor on "whether the DOJ's review of this action was justified."
Instead, the association raised concerns about whether Barr had knowledge of promises made by Trump in the phone call. In addition, the association said Barr "was obligated to recuse himself from any involvement in DOJ's review of either the whistleblower complaint of the substance of the president's actions once the president offered Mr. Barr's services to President Zelensky."
Barr's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), under the Department of Justice, also advised Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, a Trump appointee, to forgo forwarding the whistleblower's complaint to Congress, despite Michael Atkinson, intelligence community inspector general, saying it was credible and of “urgent concern."
The bar association wrote that Barr "appears to have participated in the DOJ review of the whistleblower's complaint and its decision not to forward that complaint to Congress" and his failure to recuse himself endangers the DOJ's "impartiality in the investigation of the Ukraine Matter."
The bar also suggested that Barr be forced to resign, face sanctions or be removed if he doesn't recuse himself from the probe.