Attorney General William Barr has been the subject of much scrutiny by President Trump’s supporters and foes alike. For Trumpers, the questions are often skeptical in nature. It’s the natural byproduct of what many view as former AG Jeff Sessions’ abandonment of Trump by recusing himself from the Russia probe, and the perceived lack of support from the former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. When it comes to Barr, it’s a matter of twice bitten, three times shy:
Is he our guy? Is he just part of the Establishment? Hey, you know his dad hired Jeffrey Epstein, right?
For Democrats, unsurprisingly, the accusations are the opposite. They often see anyone who isn’t actively “resisting” Trump as racist, sexist, Nazi enablers:
He’s just Trump’s bulldog! He’ll do anything to take our eyes off corrupt King Cheeto!
In a well-written but ultimately hollow piece in a recent issue of Vanity Fair, the author attempts to psychologically profile Barr through the retrograde lens of his father’s career. His father, Donald (see? Look! OMG! It’s literally the same name!) Barr ruled the elite, Upper East Side Dalton School with an iron fist, so parallels are drawn to help hand-wringing VF readers makes sense of the fact that Barr would work for, and not seek to undercut, Trump. Yes, the Trump Derangement Syndrome oozes from the piece, which is rife with flimsy inferences and acts of conflation. That said, it does contain some gems:
…a more immediate question—one that Washington has been asking for the good part of a year: What has gotten into mainstream Republican, über-decent Bill Barr?
Many who have known and respected him for decades were baffled when he signed on to head the Justice Department. “What was he thinking?” one former colleague remarked. “Everyone knew what Donald Trump was. Barr didn’t need the job.” The president, in fact, had already tried to hire Barr as one of his personal lawyers, but Barr demurred, declaring publicly, “I didn’t want to stick my head in that meat grinder.”
Over the course of the article, the author answers her own question but fails to realize as much. Reviewing Barr’s school days, she notes that he was politically individuated at a young age, both as a conservative and believer in executive authority:
As part of their curriculum they read To Kill a Mockingbird and The Ox-Bow Incident. In the second semester, they began a line-by-line analysis of the Constitution, using Your Rugged Constitution as a primer. The book’s deep dive into the meaning of the document, Barr would later insist, had a profound effect on him.
In future histories of the Trump era, Beck will perhaps become a footnote, the accidental witness who first perceived how fiercely Barr believed in the sweeping powers invested in the commander in chief. “I was left wing; Billy was right wing,” Beck recalled. “Our debates would draw clusters of listeners during lunch.” The two teenagers argued at length about the spread of communism, then known as the domino theory. “It was the height of the Vietnam War,” Beck remembered.
“Billy would say, ‘If Vietnam would fall, Indonesia would fall. Hawaii would fall.’ He did not lack for patriotism, and neither did I. I would argue that when we were out there supporting dictators, we were also supporting the heroin smugglers and the totalitarians that had divided America. He would say things like, ‘If you guys get your way, we will be living under the Communist flag in no time flat.’ We sparred constantly. But we respected each other.”
…Beck and his classmates never doubted Barr’s decency. “He never cheated on an exam,” Beck insisted. “He never belittled homosexuals. He never smoked pot behind the gym.” When Beck got into trouble for wearing that peace button to class, Barr brought him a gift—a button with a jet bomber depicted inside a peace sign. The caption: “Drop it.” “I took it as wit between friends,” Beck said. “Billy’s humor was always there.”
…During Barr’s final semester [at Columbia University], Johnson ramped up the draft, Muhammad Ali refused military service, Aretha Franklin released “Respect,” and Israel won the Six-Day War. As school let out, San Francisco was enveloped by the Summer of Love.
In the face of all this turbulence, Barr went off to Columbia, which erupted his freshman year. The campus strikes and shutdowns, he would later admit, were absolutely crucial in focusing his priorities. When student protests shuttered college buildings, he used the word anarchic to describe the face-off, furious that the demonstrators—with whom he tangled at the time—were interfering with his ability to enter the library for his classwork in Chinese studies.
And the author claims throughout to be confused by the actions of the man who now faces down domestic enemies who would overthrow a legally elected president, one who suffers the slings of a rabidly partisan press. Disingenuous, dumb, TDS, or all the above? Your guess is as good as mine.
Bullet Points Of A Powerhouse Career
What becomes clear upon inspecting Barr’s record is that he is more than qualified for the job. In fact, this isn’t his first time serving as the most powerful lawyer in the country. From 1991-1993, under George H.W. Bush, Barr was the 77th AG. He now reprises that role as the 85th.
Born in New York City to a Jewish father (who converted to Catholicism) and an Irish mother, Barr was raised Catholic. His parents were academics, working for elite private schools and universities. Barr attended Columbia University–his father’s one-time employer–and stuck around for a double Masters in US Government and Chinese Studies. Next was George Washington University Law School, where he interned at the CIA and was promoted to the role of China analyst. Barr took on these duties while attending law school at night, mind you. He graduated with highest honors.
Barr clerked on the US Court of Appeals, then won a spot at the prestigious firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge, and then a job at the White House, doing foreign policy work under President Reagan. From there it was the Justice Dept., where he became known as an outspoken advocate of unitary executive theory, the political philosophy that the president should have broad and disencumbered power over the executive branch. From there it was Deputy AG, then the top independent legal spot in the nation under Bush Sr.
Upon leaving the DOJ, Barr fought for parole abolishment and tougher criminal penalty enforcement in Virginia. He then joined GTE (which would later become Verizon) as General Counsel. He stayed in the role for 14 years and became a multimillionaire in the process. He served on various boards and as counsel to two law firms before receiving, once again, the call to national duty. This time, it came from one Donald John Trump.
Bottom line: Barr served Reagan and Bush the elder. He knows not only the halls of academic, governmental, and corporate power, he knows their corner offices and back rooms. He’s an Article II man, favoring Executive power. He’s done this before. And so far, he’s had Trump’s back, despite MSN trying to claim otherwise.
Who Is John Durham?
Barr chose Durham, the US Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the Russian collusion investigation and the intelligence gathering on the Trump campaign before and well after the 2016 election.
As a federal special prosecutor, Durham has successfully gone after tough opponents, many of them employees of the federal government. The destroyed prisoner torture videotapes from Guantanomo Bay Detention Camp landed on Durham’s desk, as did the study of the legality of prisoner torture.
Durham was also on the James “Whitey” Bulger case, the infamous New England mobster. He convicted FBI agent James Connolly, Jr., who was sentenced to 10 years for colluding with Bulger and his associates. Durham also brought charges against Paul Rico, another FBI agent, but Rico died before he could face trial.
Durham released a statement contesting the findings of the IG report five days ago. Barr praises the statement in the NBC interview, saying that the public needs to understand the differences between the two investigations. In Durham’s words:
I have the utmost respect for the mission of the Office of Inspector General and the comprehensive work that went into the report prepared by Mr. Horowitz and his staff. However, our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department. Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.
To no one’s surprise, MSNBC tried to spin this simple clarification into a disqualifying event. Make no mistake: Trump, Barr and Durham are united. Spin to the contrary is petty and transparent, attempts to make the public skeptical of the work they are doing. Why would mass media do such a thing? They are complicit in the disinformation and misdirection of the public regarding the crimes of the left.
Durham is tough and experienced. Further, he doesn’t need a case to make his reputation–he already has. In fact, as noted here, “In November 2011, Durham was included on The New Republic’s list of Washington’s most powerful, least famous people.” He would fail to win such faint praise now.
Barr is the rare public figure, and even rarer attorney, who doesn’t speak lawyer-ese. He is measured and specific, and when he can’t discuss a matter, he says so clearly. He is not what we’ve come to expect from silver-tongued officials who speak soothingly, elliptically, saying nothing. I won’t mention names like Obama and Holder, but suffice it to say, Barr’s candor is a breath of fresh air.
With all this in mind, I ask you to watch the following, an NBC interview with Barr from four days ago. If you don’t have 24 minutes, I’ve summarized the big points below (emphasis added in bold).
[Re: spying on Trump:]
I think…from a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state–principally the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies–both to spy on political opponents, but also, to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of the election. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time in history that this has been done to a presidential campaign, the use of these counter-intelligence techniques against a presidential campaign.
…When you step back here and say, What was this [the Russian collusion investigation] all based on?, it’s not sufficient. Remember, there was, and never has been, any evidence of collusion, and yet this campaign, and the president’s administration, has been dominated by this investigation into what turns out to be completely baseless.
[Re: the IG report:]
…I think you have to understand what the IG’s methodology is, and I think it’s the appropriate methodology–for an Inspector General. He starts with limited information–he can only talk to people who were essentially there as employees, and he’s limited to the information generally in the FBI. But his approach is to say, “If I get an explanation from the people I’m investigating that is not unreasonable on its face, then I will accept it, as long as there’s not contradictory testimonial or documentary evidence.” In other words, it’s a very deferential standard…he hasn’t decided the issue of improper motive.
From the very first day of this investigation…there was not one incriminatory bit of evidence to come in. It was all exculpatory…So what happens? The FBI ignores it, presses ahead, withholds that information from the court, withholds critical exculpatory evidence from the court while it gets an electronic surveillance warrant. It also withholds from the court clear-cut evidence that the dossier that they ultimately relied on to get that the FISA warrant, was a complete sham…after the election, the entire case collapsed when the principal source says, “I never told Steele this stuff”…when their entire case collapsed, what did they do? They kept on investigating the president well into his administration…here, to me, is the damning thing: they not only didn’t they tell the court that what they had been relying on was complete rubbish, they actually started putting in things to bolster the Steele report…but they don’t inform the court…so, that’s hard to explain…that leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith…documents were falsified to get [FISA] renewals.
…We can’t ignore the [FBI’s] abuses of the past and appear to be justifying them or minimizing them…our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press, and I think that there were gross abuses of FISA, and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI. The Attorney General’s primary responsibility is to protect against the abuse of the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus and make sure that it doesn’t play an improper role in our political life. That’s my responsibility, and I’m going to carry it out.
Barr concludes by predicting a “late spring or early summer” conclusion to Durham’s investigation. The investigation has likely concluded, but the findings won’t be made public until the nation is out from under the fog of impeachment. It’s also powder best kept dry until we’re closer to the 2020 ballot box.
If I’m James Comey, Mike McCabe, John Brennan, Peter Strzok, Rod Rosenstein, James Baker, James Clapper, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Hussein Obama, I’m beyond sweating at this point. To use Nancy Pelosi’s word, the lot of them are likely “prayerful” of late. Not for exoneration, but lenience.
After putting Trump through hell for three years, good luck with that.