Attorney General Bill Barr has targeted the cannabis company out of a dislike for weed, according to multiple whistleblowers.
Antitrust Division lawyer John Elias testified against Barr before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. According to Elias, 29% of all merger probes at the Antitrust Division during his time there investigated the cannabis industry.
Describing one investigation, Elias said that Barr rejected “the analysis of career staff” to intensify a probe into a merger between two leading cannabis companies. “The rationale for doing so centered not on an antitrust analysis, but because he did not like the nature of their underlying business,” Elias said, as reported by CNN.
Elias also claims that Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim admitted Barr’s bias during a meeting in fall of 2019. Delrahim “acknowledged that the investigations were motivated by the fact that the cannabis industry is unpopular ‘on the fifth floor,’ a reference to Attorney General Barr’s offices in the DOJ headquarters building,” he wrote. “Personal dislike of the industry is not a proper basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation.”
Two independent watchdog organizations have investigated the Justice Department for its bias against the wacky tobaccy, Elias told the committee. At least one one of these investigations may show signs of additional corruption.
When the complaints of Elias and another anonymous whistleblower were issued to the Office of Professional Responsibility, the offices’ director dismissed the issue, claiming that Barr’s disproportionate scrutiny of the cannabis industry “was reasonable.”
The only problem? Less than a month before the complaints fell on his desk, Ragsdale was appointed to his position by Barr himself. Elias said in his testimony that he found the office’s decision “perplexing.”
Complaints of bias against the cannabis industry are only one of many allegations of unethical conduct in Barr’s Justice Department. A prosecutor in the controversial case against Roger Stone has also testified that Stone was “treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President.”
Photo via Flickr/The White House