Long known as a law-and-order prosecutor, Atty. Gen. William Barr is under fire from critics who say he acted more as a partisan advocate for President Trump than an impartial law enforcement officer when he released the special counsel report into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

In scheduled back-to-back congressional hearings this week, Democrats will have their first chance to grill Barr since he stood at the Justice Department podium on April 18 and repeatedly declared that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had found no “collusion” between Trump and the Kremlin-backed operation.

Trump has relentlessly made that claim in tweets and speeches, although Mueller’s report avoided using the term “collusion,” explaining that it is not a crime or even a term recognized in federal law.

Two weeks earlier, Barr also went further than Mueller in a letter to Congress by saying Trump hadn’t obstructed justice by attempting to interfere with the investigation. In fact, Mueller did not make a recommendation on the issue, saying it was up to Congress to act or for prosecutors to consider after Trump leaves office.

Democrats and former prosecutors also are baffled by Barr’s recent description of court-authorized eavesdropping in 2016 as “spying,” the politically loaded term Trump uses to criticize the Justice Department and the Obama administration.

“It permanently tarnishes his reputation,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Oversight Committee. “I’m not sure why somebody wants to do this after a long career.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, questioned whether Barr had secretly “signed on as a paid federal public defender for President Trump.”

Barr, 68, is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. He is expected to face tougher questioning on Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, which is controlled by Democrats.

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