Analysis: How Bill Barr has enabled Donald Trump’s darkest instincts

Attorney General Barr defends move to defend Trump in defamation case


“Name one successful organization or institution where the lowest level employees’ decisions are deemed sacrosanct, there aren’t,” Barr mentioned of alleged unhappiness throughout the Department of Justice among the many rank-and-file. “There aren’t any letting the most junior members set the agenda. It might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency.”

Of governors resisting full reopenings of their states amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, Barr mentioned this: “You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.”

Yes, you learn that proper. He in contrast state elected officers taking precautions to guard their citizenry from a virus that has killed virtually 200,000 Americans to slavery. [shakes head]

While Barr’s speech on Wednesday is probably the most stark proof of simply how a lot he has purchased into the Trumpian view of the world (or perhaps has all the time shared it), his actions since being appointed Trump’s prime cop in February 2019 exhibit in no unsure phrases that he’s completely snug being Trump’s enforcer.

Consider:

* Barr, at Trump’s behest, launched what is known as the Durham probe — an investigation into whether or not there was any wrongdoing throughout the FBI throughout its counter-intelligence investigation of Russian meddling within the 2016 election.
* Barr has steered publicly that international governments could send thousands of fake ballots to voters in 2020 — echoing Trump’s insistence that mail-in voting is rife with fraud, regardless of no precise proof to again up that declare.
* According to The New York Times, Barr requested federal prosecutors whether or not Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan may very well be charged for her unwillingness to interrupt up protests in her metropolis and pushed for doable sedition cost towards individuals protesting racial injustice across the nation.
* Barr has requested that the Justice Department be allowed to take over Trump’s defense in a defamation lawsuit filed towards him by E. Jean Carroll, a lady who has accused Trump of sexual assault.

There’s extra — way more — however you get the thought.

Those who’ve studied Barr’s lengthy profession in public life — he served in the identical job he now holds throughout George H.W. Bush’s administration — counsel that Barr shouldn’t be putty in Trump’s arms, however that the connection is truly greatest understood the opposite method round.

As The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia and Tom Hamburger wrote in a lengthy profile of Barr launched earlier this week:

“Trump has turned out to be the ideal vessel for Barr’s decades-long pursuit of a potent ‘unitary executive’ with few checks on his power and broad authority to swat away congressional demands. Theirs is a political marriage of perfect symmetry: a President who wants to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants — and believes he can; an attorney general dedicated to endowing Oval Office occupants with expansive power. In Barr’s thinking, the president is not the head of the executive branch of government, which is a collection of dozens of agencies and sub-departments. Instead, as Barr sees it, the president and the president alone is the executive branch.”

That’s a strikingly related conclusion to the one drawn by Mattathias Schwartz in a June profile of Barr for the New York Times Magazine:

“Some wonder if Barr might still be hungry for influence, having been attorney general for only 17 months the first time. Others wonder whether he spent too much time watching Fox News during the Obama years and came out the other side an ideologue. And there are others who look at Barr’s support for Trump and see more consistency than contradiction. Barr, they say, hasn’t changed his values. Rather, he has found in Trump the perfect vehicle with which to move them forward.”

The greatest method to perceive the dynamic between the 2 males is to suppose again to this Trump quote from March 2018: “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
Cohn, who had mentored the younger Trump and, most famously served as an aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy throughout the Wisconsin Republican’s pursuit of communists in America throughout the 1950s, was — and is — to Trump’s thoughts the last word fixer. The man who will get stuff finished, regardless of the price or the general public notion. “All I can tell you is he’s been vicious to others in his protection of me,” Trump once told Vanity Fair of Cohn.
From Cohn’s finish, Trump represented the possibility to mildew a serious public determine in his personal (amoral and cynical) picture. “Donald calls me 15 to 20 times a day,” Cohn bragged in 1980. “He is always asking, ‘What is the status of this … and that?'”

It was, briefly, a deeply transactional relationship. Cohn taught Trump learn how to get consideration and switch all the pieces right into a knife struggle. Trump gave Cohn a high-profile public determine to create in his personal likeness.

It’s that very same type of transactional nature that sits on the coronary heart of understanding Trump and Barr. Trump has all the time longed for somebody to offer authorized backup to his concepts and views. (Cohn, Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani preceded Barr in that function for Trump.) Barr has all the time wished a president who views the workplace as totally limitless in its attain and energy.

Each has discovered what that had been trying to find within the different. And that might not be such an excellent factor for America.

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