Bill Barr gets a surprisingly harsh dressing-down from one of his long-time colleagues
William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee (C-SPAN/screen grab)

A former colleague blasted Attorney General William Barr for misleading the public about special counsel Robert Mueller's findings to help complete his lifetime goal of establishing a presidency with "unchecked" executive power.

Donald Ayer, who served as George H.W. Bush's deputy attorney general just before Barr took on the same role, wrote a column for The Atlantic expressing disappointment in his former colleague's tenure as attorney general under President Donald Trump.

"Having known Barr for four decades, including preceding him as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration," Ayer wrote, "I knew him to be a fierce advocate of unchecked presidential power, so my own hopes were outweighed by skepticism that this would come true. But the first few months of his current tenure, and in particular his handling of the Mueller report, suggest something very different — that he is using the office he holds to advance his extraordinary lifetime project of assigning unchecked power to the president."

Ayer hammered his former colleague's legal reasoning in his memo summarizing Mueller's findings, saying the "facts simply don't matter" in the attorney general's understanding of the Constitution, which Barr believes establishes the president as "the sole repository of all Executive powers conferred by the Constitution."

"Why worry about facts if, as Trump has claimed repeatedly, the president has unlimited power to direct or terminate any investigation, including of himself?" Ayer wrote.

Ayer said Trump's corrupt presidency serves as the perfect vehicle for Barr to push his extreme views of executive power, which he believes is the reason he was willing to "seek such a disreputable role for himself."

"This view of Barr’s conduct sheds a new light on why he not only accepted but sought out — indeed, may have craved — the opportunity to serve as attorney general under Donald Trump," Ayer wrote. "Eighteen months serving under the sedate George H. W. Bush afforded him little opportunity to seriously contend that the president is the executive branch, or otherwise argue for almost unlimited presidential powers."

"Barr may have found the ideal setting in which to pursue his life’s work of creating an all-powerful president and frustrating the Founders’ vision of a government of checks and balances," he added.