DOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump

After nearly 40 years of working for the Department of Justice (DOJ), Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern says he is “fleeing” the department over Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMilley moved to limit Trump military strike abilities after Jan. 6, Woodward book claims: report Former US attorney enters race for governor in Pennsylvania Families of 9/11 victims hope for answers about Saudi involvement in attacks MORE's "slavish obedience to Donald Trump’s will."

In an op-ed published Wednesday in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Halpern, who said he's served under 19 attorneys general and six presidents, called Barr's “resentment toward rule-of-law prosecutors,” and flagrant efforts to assist President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE’s allies dangerous for the department.

“I have respected our leadership regardless of whether we were led by a Republican or a Democrat. I always believed the department’s past leaders were dedicated to the rule of law and the guiding principle that justice is blind. That is a bygone era, but it should not be forgotten,” he wrote.


He referenced Barr’s “meddling” in the trials of Trump associates Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report MORE, Michael Flynn and Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneLawyer for 17 Jan. 6 defendants says he's been released from hospital Democrats' Jan. 6 subpoena-palooza sets dangerous precedent The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Afghanistan chaos now a deadly crisis as US troops perish MORE, including instances where federal judges have taken action against Barr’s attempts to have the cases dismissed or postponed.

"This career bureaucrat seems determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy," Halpern said.

He was also critical of Barr for supporting Trump’s use of federal troops during protests after the death of George Floyd, while remaining inactive when armed militia members gathered inside the Michigan Capitol to protest COVID-19 safety measures enacted by Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Protesters crash former Detroit police chief's gubernatorial announcement event Former Detroit police chief launching gubernatorial campaign vs. Whitmer next week MORE (D).

Last week, the FBI announced it had foiled a plot to kidnap the governor by some of those same militia members.

Writing about U.S. Attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamForty-four Republican senators demand Durham report be made public Still in the game: Will Durham's report throw a slow curveball at key political players? Report: Durham exploring charges against low-level FBI officials and tipsters MORE’s ongoing, Barr-ordered probe into the origins of the 2016 Russia investigation and possible links to the Obama administration, Halpern referred to it as “a quixotic pursuit designed to attack the president’s political rivals.” He said this action is in line with Barr’s disdain for apolitical prosecutors, to whom he has referred as “headhunters.”


Halpern said if his actions as a U.S. attorney, such as charging and convicting prominent former Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Duke Cunningham (Calif.), make him a “headhunter,” then he will wear the badge with honor.

Hunter had been charged with campaign finance fraud, and Halpern said he would have left the DOJ earlier but for his fear that Barr would have interfered in the probe if he left.

Halpern also claimed Barr’s presence is deterring highly qualified lawyers from applying to be federal prosecutors.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.