Barr Laid Bare

Bill Barrs’ recent machinations have been so outrageous it seems news media are having a hard time covering them all. I’m just trying to keep track.

Let’s see — there’s the scandal of interfering in Roger Stone’s sentencing because Stone is a friend of Trump. There’s the scandal of the attempt to drop the Michael Flynn charges, which may succeed although I don’t think it’s over yet. There’s the firing of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. That’s just what we’ve been looking at this week. Before that there was his involvement in the Bible stunt, and lying about the Mueller Report, and a bunch of other stuff.

David Frum writes that what is most remarkable about the Barr/Trump corruptions is that there is no cover up. It’s all happening in plain view. Which makes one wonder what might be going on that isn’t in plain view. As we’ve seen so many times in the past, the cover-up often turns out to be a bigger scandal than the original crime. There may be an advantage, Frum suggests, in eliminating the cover-up and keeping everything out in the open.

We all expect scandals to be clandestine. If actions are flagrant, how can they be scandalous? Yet, again and again, Trump has announced scandalous misconduct on TV, as when the president told NBC’s Lester Holt that of course he fired James Comey to shut down the Russia investigation, or boasted to a Tulsa rally crowd that he slowed coronavirus testing to reduce the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. The normal mind tends to think: People don’t casually confess to serious wrongdoing. Trump just casually confessed. So the thing he confessed must not be seriously wrong, or it must not have actually happened.

I also recommend “It’s ideologue meets grifter”: How Bill Barr made Trumpism possible by Sean Illing at Vox. Illing interviews David Rohde, a New Yorker editor who wrote a profile of Barr for the January issue. Here’s a bit of the Vox interview:

David Rohde: I think the most important thing to understand is that he has one of the most extreme views of how powerful an American president should be.

Sean Illing: What does that mean?

David Rohde: It means that he does not believe that we should have three co-equal branches of government. He believes the president should be more powerful than Congress and the courts. In his mind, that’s the only thing that can keep the country safe when it is threatened by war, natural disaster, or economic collapse. He believes that is what the founders intended. …

… In fact, I just spoke to someone who knows him well, who works closely with him, and he told me that Barr is fully committed, that he stands by every action he’s taken in this administration, from clearing Lafayette Park with tear gas to trying to fire the US attorney in Manhattan this weekend. And this person said that Barr is doing these actions because he himself believes in empowering the presidency. It is not because he’s being pressured or bullied by Trump.

This makes Barr the most dangerous sort of cancer on the administration. He is not doing what he is doing for political gain or to take money under the table; he’s doing it because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.

Just because much is out in the open doesn’t mean there isn’t much that is hidden. For example, Josh Marshall wrote on Monday,

Just to refresh our memories, in Bill Barr’s original announcement he said that Geoff Berman was resigning, that he would be replaced on an acting basis by the US Attorney in New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, and that Carpenito would run both offices until Berman’s replacement, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, was confirmed.

It now seems that Barr may not have leveled with all the folks involved.

I’ve learned that on Saturday morning Carpenito held a conference call with the entire staff of the New Jersey US Attorneys office and told them the first he heard of the whole thing was on Friday afternoon. Barr called Friday afternoon and asked him to step in to run the office in Manhattan on a temporary basis. Barr told Carpenito and Carpenito said he believed that Berman had already resigned or was in the process of resigning. In other words, he was told that Berman was leaving on his own volition and he agreed to take over on that basis. He was shocked to learn later in the evening that Berman hadn’t resigned at all and was refusing to do so.

On Saturday afternoon Barr upped the ante and claimed that Trump had fired Berman. A short time later Trump told reporters he wasn’t involved. So Barr had lied again. Or perhaps Trump was lying. Either way, Barr never produced a letter over Trump’s signature firing Berman, which he certainly would have if one existed. But in that follow up Barr did drop the Carpenito takeover idea and agreed to have Strauss succeed Berman.

It’s not clear to me and it may not have been in the conference call what Carpenito would have told Barr if he’d known that Berman wasn’t going voluntarily or in fact hadn’t resigned at all. But he seems to have been clear with staff that Berman’s late Friday night press release had changed the equation for him considerably.

We still don’t know why Barr picked Carpenito or, more importantly, what mess Barr was trying to make go away by trying to axe Berman in the first place.

Nancy LeTourneau makes an argument that Berman was fired because he was closing in on evidence corroborating what we all think happened with Trump and Rudy Giuliani regarding Ukraine.

Yesterday’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee was about the Roger Stone case.

A Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted Roger Stone says that he and other career prosecutors “were told that we could be fired,” if they resisted political pressure to lower their recommended sentence for the longtime adviser to President Donald Trump.

Aaron Zelinsky, a lead prosecutor on the Stone case, shared new details Wednesday on efforts by his superiors to convince him and his colleagues to give Stone “a break” after the self-styled dirty trickster was convicted in November for perjury, obstruction of Congress, and witness tampering. “What I heard repeatedly was that Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president,” Zelinsky testified. …Attorney General William Barr has acknowledged that he personally intervened in the Stone case, which Trump has denounced.

And see Aaron Blake, 5 takeaways from the scathing testimony about William Barr’s Justice Department.

Barbara McQuade and Joyce Vance have teamed up to write Bill Barr Is Eroding the Rule of Law. Don’t Let Him Get Away With It at New York magazine.

There is no future in this Department of Justice, the one that is led by Bill Barr. He has destroyed the public’s ability to have faith in the integrity of prosecutions. Typically, conversations about ethical conduct involving DOJ employees are about avoiding the appearance of impropriety, not about actual impropriety. DOJ’s ethics rules caution prosecutors to take great concern with appearances because they can affect the public’s confidence in the institution. But now, in the starkest terms possible, we are talking about actual impropriety at DOJ. We are talking about a president who uses DOJ as a political tool, an attorney general who enables it, and a department that tolerates it.

We like to think others will come forward to talk about what they have seen and what they know. But even if these whistleblowers stand alone, the rest of the country must see this for what it is, a violation of the principle that no one is above the law. Although many suggest the only option we have is to wait until November, this crisis is so significant that despite the political obstacles, it is time to bring this lawless administration to account. With sufficient public pressure, Barr could be forced to resign, just as Gonzales was.

I believe they are concerned.

10 thoughts on “Barr Laid Bare

  1. "In his mind, that’s the only thing that can keep the country safe when it is threatened by war, natural disaster, or economic collapse."

    This is a bullshit attempt to launder the truth that Barr is a Republican royalist. From the beginning of Trump's * Presidency until January 2020 there was no such emergency. And we needn't debate what Barr's position on the scope of POTUS authority would be for Obama or Biden.  

  2. Frank Rich:

    “Botched” doesn’t begin to describe Barr’s sub-Machiavellian move at the SDNY. It takes a certain amount of idiocy to stage a Saturday Night Massacre on Friday night. Richard Nixon knew that by staging a coup on Saturday night, you catch the Sunday television talk shows and newspapers off-guard, whereas, if you do it Friday night, you tee up the media for a full weekend of frenzy.

    Not for the first time — or the thousandth, perhaps — America has been rescued from complete authoritarian rule by the sheer incompetence of Trump and his lieutenants, who are rarely better at executing their extralegal maneuvers than they are at their rare forays into legal governance. But Nadler’s threats will go nowhere. Barr will continue to serve his master in any way he can, assuring get-out-of-jail-free cards for the likes of Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, and Rudy Giuliani while continuing to hollow out civil-rights enforcement at Justice even as law-enforcement criminality is given a pass. America has an attorney general who seems far more at home in a bunker with a lawless leader than in any Washington edifice that stands for our Constitution.

    It’s almost as if Trump is determined to destroy the Republican Party. Go for, Donald, go for it!!

  3. The judiciary committee needs to recommend articles of impeachment for Barr. Even if it is destined to go nowhere it's the right thing to do. The worst thing that can be done is to throw their hands up in impotence knowing that Trump and Barr won't be held to account in the near term. The price to be paid will be levied in public sentiment come November.  Do the right thing and it will always be the right move. Even if we can't see it in the here and now.

    Even Trump's impeachment exacted an intangible price that's yet to be paid, and all of his bellowing of innocence isn't going to make that price go away. He's sinking in his corruption. Flee from him!

  4. It's well to remember that during the Nazis' ascent to power in the 1930's, the first offices they targeted to take over were the prosecutors.

  5. Barr and Trump also have cover from respected DC players like Jonathan Turley. The Shapiro Professor of Law at George Washington University is often concerned about Trump, but Barr is his friend and a beacon of integrity, at least according to Turley. 

  6. Disbar Bill "Bullshite" (Dis)Barr!

    How is it that only Bill (Dis)Barr and a handful of other conservative loons can read the same US Constitution I read, you read, we ALL have read, and come away with the idea that our Founding Fathers "intended" a "Unitary President" -AKA: A King! 

    If THAT'S what they "intended," THEN WHY DIDN'T THEY WRITE THAT?!?

    Obviously, that's NOT what they intended. 

    That's what (Dis)Barr & his group of un-American Fascist cohorts intend to have misunderstood!

    Btw, maha, right after you posted this piece, the NY Times has an article about how (Dis)Barr has been messing with the SDNY for…  Oh, about since he first got sworn-in!

    Since the fingers caught in this particular Kooky Jar are fat ones, that would lead even a non-Sherlock Holmes to eliminate from any blame the tiny-handed vulgarian who, to our great tragedy, is our presiDUNCE, and throw the blame on (Dis)Barr!

    Grab some popcorn, sit down in your favorite comfy chair, AND ENJOY!

  7. There’s the scandal of the attempt to drop the Michael Flynn charges, which may succeed although I don’t think it’s over yet.

    It isn't. The judge who wrote the decision wrote a pretty awful decision, but, in addition, issued a writ of mandamus. Assuming Vox is correct, mandamus is only an appropriate resolution if there's no other way to achieve the desired end. For example, if the trial judge had sworn that he would never dismiss the charges, then maybe – *MAYBE* – that would hold, but since the trial judge could decide to dismiss the case,  a writ of mandamus is trivially excluded.  (Again, per Vox, I'm not a lawyer.)

    I don't know what rights the trial judge has, but no one expects (and only bad faith actors want) that decision to stand as is; people use the same words to describe it as they use to describe food gone *way* bad.

    Apropos of nothing, this is an indescribably dangerous situation. The Republicans used to issue rules and findings and decisions based upon cherry picked data, and sometimes extreme leaps of pseudo-reasoning, but they tried to keep it kinda-quiet. Now, they're doing it right in front of our faces. If they were children, people would say that they're asking for strong boundaries, and acting out because even the most obvious, egregious, misbehavior gets them no attention.

    But they're not. And they, and other nominal grownups, are simply refusing to tell the truth, or even discuss the matter in good faith. And that means, even if the tide turns against Trump, the next Trump-like office holder will still be able to engage in widespread corruption and lawbreaking.

    Maybe I'm overworried, but, see, the GOP loved them the Schiavo case, with big headlines and people asking "why do liberals want this poor woman, who is obviously responsive, to die?" They had their followers believing that 20 judges (nice round number…) all made elementary legal mistakes, and refused to consider this woman's "right to life". Okay, when did they all gather at a press conference, and say "we were wrong; medically speaking, and legally speaking, we had no cause to interfere."

    They didn't. And while they can't ring that bell any longer, as the courtroom saying re: "the jury will disregard…", you can't *unring* it either. There are likely still millions of people who think the US murdered Ms. Schivao, rather than carrying out her clearly stated wishes. Couple that with how the right wing preaches a modern day holocaust because "abortion is murder!!!!", and the rest of their claptrap, and there's no easy off-ramp to tell all these angry, bitter people that "hey, sorry 'bout your luck, you got played for rubes."

    Or, more briefly, I'm not surprised to hear about "boogaloo", and am worried that there are more people sympathetic to it than is healthy for any nation, much less a democracy.

  8. I haven't read any discussion of timing. The Statute of Limitations began to run as of the date of the crime (not the charges.) I'm not sure what other crimes were dismissed as part of the plea deal or what the clock is on those but it looks like the new A/G will have only days to file charges against Flynn in January (if my investigation of the Stature is correct.) 

    Barr wanted the charges dismissed in such a way Flynn could not be re-charged. ("with prejudice".) Barr wants to do this in a way that doesn't require Trump take the heat with a pardon. I'm not sure that will happen and as a lame-duck president, I'm not sure Trump will pardon anybody. 

    If anybody was aver guilty of Obstruction of Justice, it's Barr. When Barr is no longer A/G, will the new A/G press charges? (Nixon's A/G went to jail for over a year.)  Does 'justice' mean anything about an objective application of the law or is it code for who you know in government with the power to protect you?

    Who Biden picks for A/G concerns me more than who he names as VP.

    • Biden needs to reiterate his statement about not issuing Trump a pardon. It will be the liberal version of "lock her up". No crime has to be committed, just the implication that Trump is a criminal and will need to be pardoned. Yeah, give Trump a taste of his own deviant tactics.

                             NO PARDON FOR TRUMP!

Comments are closed.