Attorney General William Barr is taking on another item from President Donald Trump’s agenda, railing against judges who issue rulings blocking nationwide policies.
In a speech Tuesday night, Barr took aim at the broad judicial power, arguing that federal judges who have issued so-called nationwide injunctions are hampering Trump’s efforts on immigration, health care and other issues with “no clear end in sight.”
It is the latest example of Barr moving to embrace Trump’s political talking points.
The attorney general is traditionally expected to carry out the president’s agenda as a member of the Cabinet while trying to avoid political bias. Democrats have cast Barr as an attorney general who acts more like Trump’s personal lawyer instead of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.
At a re-election rally earlier this month, Trump railed against “activist judges who issue nationwide injunctions based on their personal beliefs,” which he said “undermine democracy and threaten the rule of law.”
Administration officials have often complained about the proliferation of nationwide injunctions since Trump became president. Vice President Mike Pence said a few weeks ago that the administration intends to challenge the right of federal district courts to issue such rulings.
“The legal community and the broader public should be more concerned, particularly about this trend of nationwide injunctions,” Barr said.
Barr highlighted the legal fights that have happened in federal courts across the country over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that shields young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children but don’t have legal status to protect them from deportation.
The Justice Department, under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, argued that the Obama administration acted unlawfully when it implemented DACA. Texas and other Republican-led states eventually sued and won a partial victory in a federal court in Texas.
Civil rights groups, advocates for immigrants and Democratic-led states all have sued to prevent the end of the program. A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the administration decision to end DACA was arbitrary and capricious.
Barr said Trump “lost much of his leverage” in negotiations with congressional Democrats, who were pushing for a permanent solution for DACA recipients, after one district court judge issued an order forcing the administration to maintain the program nationwide.
“Unsurprisingly, those negotiations did not lead to a deal,” Barr said.
In his speech to the American Law Institute in Washington, Barr argued it isn’t about partisanship and said the approach taken by judges who issue these nationwide rulings departs not only from the limitations of the Constitution, but also from the “traditional understanding of the role of courts.” The Justice Department will continue to oppose such rulings, he said.
“Nationwide injunctions not only allow district courts to wield unprecedented power, they also allow district courts to wield it asymmetrically,” Barr said.