Attorney General Barr head­lined Hills­dale’s Con­sti­tution Day event in Wash­ington, D.C. Ben Wilson | Collegian

The COVID-19 lock­downs are “the greatest intrusion on civil lib­erties in American history,” United States Attorney General William Barr said in a speech at Hillsdale College’s Con­sti­tution Day cel­e­bration on Sept. 16 in Arlington, Virginia. 

Barr’s speech focused on the rule of law and the sep­a­ration of powers doctrine.

“The rule of law is the linchpin of American freedom and the critical guar­antee of the rule of law comes from the Con­sti­tu­tion’s structure of sep­a­ration of powers,” Barr said. “The framers rec­og­nized that by dividing the leg­islative, exec­utive, and judicial powers — each sig­nif­icant but each limited — they would min­imize the risk of any form of tyranny.” 

As head of the Department of Justice, Barr focused on the powers del­e­gated to the exec­utive branch of gov­ernment, specif­i­cally through the lens of criminal justice. He said that as the exec­utive branch has vir­tually unchecked power in bringing charges, there is potential for abuse by federal prosecutors. 

“Federal pros­e­cutors possess power that is nec­essary to enforce our laws and punish wrongdoing…but power that carries inherent potential for abuse,” Barr said. “Left unchecked, [pros­e­cu­torial dis­cretion] has the power to inflict far more harm than it prevents.”

Barr con­tinued by saying that the most basic check on this power is accountability. 

“But, political account­ability — pol­itics — is what ulti­mately ensures our system does its work fairly and with proper recog­nition of the many interests and values at stake,” Barr said. “Gov­ernment power com­pletely divorced from political account­ability is tyranny.” 

In a Q&A session after Barr’s speech, mod­erated by Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn, the attorney general com­mented on hot-button issues.

Barr said Black Lives Matter as an orga­ni­zation “is not inter­ested in Black lives” and instead uses Black Amer­icans as props for their ide­o­logical agenda. Barr said caring for Black lives is about taking a holistic approach  — ensuring equal pro­tection under the law and boosting quality of life through com­munity-based pro­grams and education.

“Because the attorney general is ulti­mately polit­i­cally accountable for every decision that the department makes, I and my pre­de­cessors have had an oblig­ation to ensure that we make the correct decision,” Barr said. “We must strive for con­sis­tency, and that is yet another reason why cen­tralized senior lead­ership exists to har­monize the dis­parate views of our many pros­e­cutors in a con­sistent policy.”

WHIP student and senior Kathleen Hess said she was honored to hear from the attorney general. 

“It was thrilling to hear Attorney General Barr speak because it is clear that he is com­fortable in this audience and he does not have to curb his opinions,” she said. 

Assistant Pro­fessor of Pol­itics David Azerrad also said he enjoyed Barr’s speech.

“I was very impressed with Attorney General Barr’s remarks,” Azerrad said. “His intel­li­gence shines, as does his boldness and devotion to his country and the rule of law.”

Arnn intro­duced Barr as a man of deep integrity and regard for the rule of law — a stalwart figure in a political climate full of chaos and violence.

“The highest kind of honor is to do right until the last day, and prepare to meet your maker,” Arnn said. “For to get back to the rule of law, it will be people, like Attorney General William Barr, that will get it back for us.” 

Reporter Ben Wilson con­tributed to this report.