What Legal Controversies Will Barr Leave for Biden?

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Justice Department observers are watching to see whether William Barr’s final days as attorney general produce new hurdles for Biden appointees who will take the keys on Jan. 20, Politico reports. The end of an administration typically brings a wave of departures. Curious late-term arrivals have prompted questions about whether the Justice Department has surprises in store. Controversial economist John Lott, who has long promoted more widespread gun ownership, was hired at the Office of Justice Programs as a senior adviser. He’s been the target of complaints from Democrats. DOJ has declined to say if Lott is in a civil service job or a political one. Barr has set his departure for one day after a major milestone in a lawsuit trying to finish off the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. A federal judge in Texas who ruled against a related program is set to hear arguments Tuesday, the day before Barr’s exit, in a Texas-led suit challenging DACA,.

Barr has blindsided the incoming administration by saying he had elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham into a full-fledged special counsel investigating the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe. Special counsels cannot be removed without good cause under existing regulations. Barr’s departure comes amid Republican pressure to name at least two additional special counsels: one to investigate Biden’s son Hunter’s foreign business dealings and one to examine unfounded claims of “irregularities” in the 2020 election process. Trump granted Barr sweeping authority to declassify documents related to the Trump-Russia probe. If Barr plans to bless a controversial document dump, the next week is his window.  There are also hundreds of federal criminal cases stemming from the civil unrest after George Floyd’s death. Biden appointees could face criticism for dropping cases over assaults on police or damage to police cars.

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