William Barr Shows 'Loyalty' to Trump, Not U.S., Says NYC Bar in Statement Calling for AG's Recusal in Ukraine Matter

Attorney General William Barr Delivers Remarks At The SEC Criminal Coordination Conference
U.S. Attorney General William Barr waves goodbye after delivering remarks during the Criminal Coordination Conference at the Securities and Exchange Commission Oct. 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. The NYC Bar Association released a statement assailing Barr for what it alleges is loyalty to the president personally rather than the office he serves. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The New York City Bar Association demanded Wednesday that Attorney General William Barr recuse himself from any Justice Department review of the whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump, saying he appeared to view "his primary obligation as loyalty to the President individually rather than to the nation."

"Regardless of whether Mr. Barr was in fact aware of or part of the President's plans, either before, at the time of, or after the July 25, 2019 telephone call, it is clear that Mr. Barr was obligated to recuse himself from any involvement in DOJ's review of either the whistleblower complaint or the substance of the President's actions once the President offered Mr. Barr's services to President Zelensky," the association said in a statement.

Barr was invoked on the July 25 call which, among other communications, prompted an intelligence community whistleblower to lodge a complaint against President Donald Trump for alleged improprieties related to his dealings with Ukraine. On the phone call, the president appeared to suggest that military aid for the Eastern European country would be contingent upon an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, his chief 2020 rival, or a DNC server central to a conspiracy theory.

Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he should communicate with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, "a highly respected man," in addition to the U.S. Attorney General, William Barr.

The Justice Department later distanced itself from the call, claiming that Barr had not spoken with Trump about his wishes regarding Ukraine.

"The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine, on this or any other matter," Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in late September. "The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine, on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani."

The Justice Department has been involved in some of the fallout from the phone call, advising that the whistleblower's complaint need not be referred to Congress and could instead be managed by the department through a criminal referral. Ultimately, the department ruled out criminal prosecution after assessing that no campaign finance laws were broken with Trump's offer to Zelensky.

Barr "appears to have participated in the DOJ review of the whistleblower's complaint and its decision not to forward that complaint to Congress," Wednesday's statement said. "That he failed to recuse himself from that review, and still has not yet (to our knowledge) recused himself from any ongoing DOJ review of other aspects of the Ukraine Matter, is a serious violation of his obligation to protect the DOJ from reasonable questions as to its impartiality in the investigation of the Ukraine Matter."

The statement was authored by the association's president, Roger Maldonado, and the chair of its Task Force on the Rule of Law, Stephen Kass.

It is unknown whether or how the Justice Department is involved in any ongoing investigation into the substance of the whistleblower's allegations, but Kass told Newsweek that he believes it is imperative for Barr to announce that any future review would not be subject to his involvement.

The Justice Department did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment.