WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Trump-era U.S. Attorney engaged in “unbecoming” conduct when he publicly bashed a federal prosecutor for signing a letter that was critical of then-Attorney General Bill Barr’s order to pursue investigations into voting irregularities in the 2020 presidential election, a new report has found.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said on Thursday that the ex-U.S. Attorney made inappropriate comments about one of the prosecutors in his office during a press conference.
The press conference came after Barr penned a controversial memo ordering U.S. Attorneys offices to pursue “substantial” allegations of voting irregularities.
Critics said the order was improper because it gave credence to President Donald Trump’s false claims the election was stolen, and it prompted the department’s top lawyer overseeing voter fraud investigations at the time to resign from that position in protest.
Ultimately Barr concluded there was no evidence of wide-spread voter fraud.
At a press conference, a reporter asked the U.S. Attorney about the letter, which was signed by a number of assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA), including one in his office.
In response, the U.S. Attorney “sought to undermine the AUSA’s professional reputation by referencing that the spouse of the AUSA who signed the letter had previously worked for two U.S. Attorneys General of the previous administration,” the report says, thereby inappropriately suggesting the AUSA was motivated by partisan political considerations.
Those comments “constituted poor judgment, was unbecoming of a U.S. Attorney or any DOJ leader, and reflected poorly on DOJ,” Horowitz found.
It also ran contrary to internal department guidance, which urged leadership to refrain from commenting negatively because the letter was legally protected free speech.
The report does not identify the former U.S. Attorney, but its description closely matches a November 2020 press conference held by Scott Brady, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
At that event, Brady said one of the prosecutors who signed the letter “was married to the former chief of staff of Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch” and had added his name “unbeknownst to anyone in leadership” and without talking to an ethics adviser.
Brady, now an attorney with Jones Day, could not be immediately reached for comment.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Andrea Ricci)