Joe Biden on Wednesday accused President Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr of politicizing the Justice Department, saying the president uses the agency as his “private law firm.”
“This has been the most corrupt administration in modern American history,” Biden said during a question-and-answer session at a Black economic summit in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“The Justice Department in my administration will be totally independent of me,” Biden continued, adding that he would “not enter into” any decisions about what cases the agency would bring and not bring.
“Most of all, I’d have an attorney general who understood his oath of office,” he said, saying that the department, under Barr’s watch, had become “the Department of Trump.”
“The most dangerous thing that’s happened so far is the politicization of the Department of Justice,” Biden said. “It’s become the Department of Trump, and that’s wrong.”
Barr has faced scathing criticism throughout his tenure leading Trump’s Justice Department. Democrats have ripped him for the way he publicly portrayed the Mueller report before it was officially released.
Barr has also been accused of using the agency to protect Trump and his allies. Current and former government lawyers have ripped him for moving to abandon the prosecution of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and seeking a less harsh sentence for Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser. In both cases, multiple career Justice Department lawyers quit the prosecution teams in response.
Barr has also echoed Trump in making a series of misleading or unfounded claims about the U.S. elections, vote by mail and voter fraud. His comments have alarmed civil rights advocates who fear his comments could undermine confidence in the election and the rule of law.
He also defended the Justice Department’s involvement in a lawsuit against Trump brought by E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s.
Biden’s comments Wednesday came in response to a question about how he would “reimagine” the Justice Department if he were to win in November.
He vowed to “elevate” the department’s Civil Rights Unit so it “has access to all police departments’ activities” and promised it would also have a “direct office inside the White House.”
Biden described some of the policies ht has proposed to help the Black community, including increasing funding for historically black universities and putting in place measures that would expand access to K-12 education for younger Black students.
“I think we have an opportunity to change systemic inequality and systemic racism,” he said. “There’s only one way to do it. Vote,” he added.
Biden’s visit was his first to North Carolina since he campaigned there during the Democratic primary this past spring. Democratic voters in the state told NBC News earlier this month that the Democratic nominee would have to set foot there if he wanted a shot at putting the state back in the blue column for the just second time in the last 44 years.
Polls show a dead heat in the state; seven of the most recent eight polls tracked by NBC News show Biden leading Trump narrowly. To win the state, Biden will have to perform strongly with the state’s large contingent of Black voters, as well as with women and suburbanites.