Amid intense national scrutiny, Bill Barr heads to Alaska to talk public safety

May 30, 2019

With the nation watching, Attorney General William Barr headed to Anchorage, Alaska this week to hear concerns from community members about public safety in rural parts of the state.

The meeting is part of a four-day trip by the attorney general that has been overshadowed by a slew of headlines that have characterized Barr as a staunch ally of President Donald Trump and slammed his handling of Robert Mueller’s report on alleged Trump-Russia collusion in light of recent remarks by the special prosecutor.

Alaska bound

Barr received a warm welcome on Wednesday at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage, where he sat in on a roundtable discussion designed to give residents a chance to voice their concerns about public safety in rural parts of the state. The meeting was attended by “representatives of Alaska Native village corporations, public safety organizations, tribes and rural Alaska communities,” according to KTUU, a local NBC affiliate.

These groups expressed their frustrations over a number of issues, including lack of resources for “survivors and victims of crimes, particularly domestic violence and sexual assault” and long wait times for response from Alaska State Troopers and other public safety officials.

“We can’t accept these problems as being the way of life in rural Alaska,” said Ralph Andersen, a representative from the Bristol Bay Native Association, which represents more than 30 tribes located in southern Alaska. “We can’t accept them as being normal.”

For his part, Barr promised that he would keep “gather[ing] information” on the issues and follow up with attendees with another meeting either in Alaska or Washington, D.C., according to KTUU.

Barr is being hosted in Alaska by Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican and former state attorney general who was first elected to Congress in 2015.

The nation watching

Barr’s trip to Alaska comes as the attorney general has been under intense national scrutiny over his handling of Robert Mueller’s final report on alleged Trump-Russia collusion. Speaking publicly about his probe for the first time at a press conference announcing his investigation’s official conclusion on Wednesday, Mueller made claims that many in Washington and the media said were contradictory to previous statements from Barr.

According to Politico:

While Barr stated in his April news conference that there was “no evidence of collusion,” Mueller said Wednesday he found “insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.” And while Mueller gave a nod to Congress when he said that “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” Barr said he hoped Mueller hadn’t intended to leave the decision to Congress “since we don’t convene grand juries and conduct criminal investigations for that purpose.”

Still, despite assertions otherwise by Democrats and even some Republicans, like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — who said that Mueller’s Wednesday statement “definitely contradicts what the attorney general said when he summarized Mueller’s report” — the Justice Department maintains that there is no rift between Mueller and the attorney general.

“The Attorney General has previously stated that the Special Counsel repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion, he would have found the President obstructed justice,” wrote DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec and Mueller spokesperson Peter Carr in a joint statement. “The Special Counsel’s report and his statement today made clear that the office concluded it would not reach a determination — one way or the other — about whether the President committed a crime. There is no conflict between these statements.”

Meanwhile, Democrats have argued that Mueller gave them the green light on Wednesday to pursue further investigations into Trump.

For his part, the president has said that Mueller “would have brought charges” himself if he had evidence of wrongdoing and maintained Thursday that the case is closed.

Barr declined to respond to a reporter’s question about the special counsel in Anchorage on Wednesday.

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Michelle E. Rawlings

Michelle Rawlings is Conservative Institute's managing editor. She holds a B.A. in English from Shenandoah University. Her award-winning writing has appeared in local newspapers and national web publications such as Red Alert Politics. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleRawlngs.