A Department of Justice whistleblower testified Wednesday that Attorney General Bill Barr improperly initiated probes into the cannabis industry because of his negative feelings about marijuana, an allegation that comes as Barr faces mounting criticism that he has politicized his office.
“Personal dislike of the industry is not a proper basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation,” John Elias, a career DOJ employee, testified Wednesday.
Elias, who joined the DOJ in 2006 and served as the Antitrust Division’s chief of staff between January 2017 and October 2018, says that marijuana-related investigations accounted for 29% of full-review merger investigations in fiscal 2019.
Barr based decisions about probes “not on an antitrust analysis, but because he did not like the nature of their underlying business,” Elias said.
Barr has faced scrutiny over the abrupt firing last week of the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, who investigated some of President Trump’s closest allies.