"The head of the American justice system now saying publicly that there is no good or bad except what the strongest want," said another critic. "The definition of autocracy."
That was the initial two-word reaction of Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) late Thursday night after CBS News aired an interview with U.S. Attorney General William Barr who declared that "history is written by the winners" when asked how he thought historians would view the Justice Department's dropping of charges against President Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn earlier in the day.
REPORTER: How will history look back on your decision to drop charges against Flynn? BILL BARR: “Well, history is… https://t.co/fgwkhPJpzO— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1588894620.0
To critics like Murphy, Barr's response was a clear betrayal of the standards that should be upheld by the Justice Department and the American legal system.
"The entire idea of the rule of law—that thing the Attorney General is supposed to be in charge of upholding—is predicated on the outcome of elections NOT mattering when it comes to the operation of the legal system," Murphy said.
After the DOJ's decision to drop charges against Flynn there was no shortage of outrage directed at Barr, with many critics saying it appeared to be a direct effort to help the president politically.
"Barr has consistently acted for the personal and political benefit of President Trump, rather than fulfilling his duty as chief law enforcement officer of the United States," said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
AG BARR NEEDS TO RESIGN AG BARR NEEDS TO RESIGN AG BARR NEEDS TO RESIGN AG BARR NEEDS TO RESIGN AG BARR NEEDS TO RE… https://t.co/5Qd2E2oKQH— Citizens for Ethics (@Citizens for Ethics)1588906806.0
Legal experts, meanwhile, said the DOJ maneuvers related to the Flynn case were unprecedented.
"I've been practicing for more time than I care to admit and I've never seen anything like this," Julie O'Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Georgetown University, told the New York Times.
The Justice Department filing does not show Michael Flynn is innocent. He still lied to the @FBI, a felony. He stil… https://t.co/V2JXRXAz3m— Ted Lieu (@Ted Lieu)1588881293.0
But Barr's deflection of such criticisms—delivered with what the Daily Beast characterized as "a sly smile"—during the CBS interview sparked even further alarm.
"The head of the American justice system now saying publicly that there is no good or bad except what the strongest want. The definition of autocracy," tweeted writer and director Adam Stein in response.
Political science professor Robert E. Kelly, who teaches at the Pusan National University in South Korea, said it's "kinda mind-blowing that the US equivalent of the justice minister is embracing might-makes-right historiography. [Isn't] his job literally the opposite?"
In the U.S. meanwhile, journalist and left-leaning columnist Will Bunch suggested it was time to put Barr's theory of history and justice to the test.
"We need to win in November and write the history of how Bill Barr spent the rest of his life in prison," Bunch quipped.