Trump Attorney General William Barr is trying to tease us in advance of his book’s publication next week. Don’t buy it.
From reports quoting advance copies of One Damned Thing After Another, due for release on March 8, Barr’s book is the latest front in his charm offensive to sanitize his reputation. He’s distancing himself from Trump now, but as AG, Barr empowered Trump and worked hard to get him re-elected. The damage Barr did can’t be minimized by a memoir.
Let’s compare what he now writes with what he did.
His book reportedly says that Trump was “off the rails” and showed he had “neither the temperament nor persuasive powers to provide the kind of positive leadership that is needed,” so the Republican party should move on.
Barr is quoted as writing, “We need leaders . . . who can frame . . . an uplifting vision.” And then there’s this telling sentence: “[T]he pandemic threw into bold relief Trump’s deficiencies as leader — showcasing his failings, not his strengths.”
Remember that Trump began to “showcase” his leadership “failings” fighting Covid in February 2020, when he told the nation that infections would soon be “close to zero” and that Covid “would disappear” in April.
April came and Covid remained. So he pointed the finger of blame at governors.
Despite those early 2020 “deficiencies as [a] leader,” two months later, Barr went above and beyond the call of duty in support of Trump’s reelection efforts. In June 2020, Barr was the civilian general surveilling Lafayette Park when police and the military stampeded peaceful demonstrators so that Trump could take a campaign photo-op holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Church.
The same month, Barr, in a Wolf Blitzer interview, amplified Trump’s Big Lie. Barr asserted, without evidence, that mail-in ballots are so subject to fraud that expanding access to them would result in a non-secure election.
In October 2020, Barr told friends he hoped to stay on as AG if Trump won re-election.
He only turned on Trump after it was clear that he had lost. On December 1, 2020, Barr announced publicly that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud
Relevant here is his cynical May 2020 television response, when a CBS interviewer asked how he thought history would remember him: “History is written by the winners.”
Now, in apparent pursuit of a non-Trump legacy, he seems to be writing his own version of history. But it’s hard to ignore his actions as Trump’s Enabler-in-Chief.
First to mind is Barr’s March 2019 Mueller investigation whitewash, which salvaged, in whole or in part, the presidency of someone Barr now calls an “incorrigible” narcissist. Two federal judges described Barr’s Mueller Report presentation as “distorted” and “misleading.” Those are jurists’ polite terms for someone not telling the truth.
Consider how many times that Barr served as Trump’s Hatchet Man, the title of former federal prosecutor Elie Honig’s book about Barr’s 2019-2021 tenure as Attorney General.
In September 2019, Barr tried to bury a CIA whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s extortionate call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelinskyy, trying to get him to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
In December 2019, Barr unleashed an unprecedented public attack on his own department’s Inspector General for contradicting Trump’s original Big Lie, that the FBI had no legitimate basis to investigate his 2016 Campaign’s coordination with Russia.
In June 2020, former United States Attorney Barbara McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan said that Barr “exposed himself as a lying bully” when he botched his attempt to fire then-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York. Word was that Berman was investigating potential criminal wrongdoing by Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Attempting to oust such a prosecutor and dissembling do not provide an “uplifting vision” of leadership at the Department of Justice.
Barr damaged the Department’s cherished reputation for integrity and extended Trump’s power.
Some who appreciate Barr renouncing Trump may respond, “Better late than never. It’s good to have an ally.” As they say, politics can make strange bedfellows.
Just be careful about buying into any narrative that hides Barr’s role facilitating much of Trump’s “one damned thing after another.” That’s just another Big Lie.