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William Barr Says Trump’s Tweets Make AG Job ‘Impossible’. Real Criticism Or Ruse?

Are you "prepared for the ramifications" of your remarks, Mr. Barr?

It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that Bill Barr is “in trouble”.

After all, he is the nation’s top law enforcement official, and at a time when America’s system of checks and balances has been undermined such that congressional oversight has no real teeth, there’s a very real sense in which Barr cannot get in “trouble”.

But, he is learning that no matter how prepared you think you are to hold a top position in the Trump administration, you will at some point find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer, blatant belligerence of the man who occupies the Oval Office – belligerence which could land you in some extremely uncomfortable positions.

Read more: William Barr Has Date With House Judiciary Committee As Trump Gets More Brazen

To be sure, Barr has spent decades waiting for a chance to do precisely what he’s doing right now: Working to expand executive power nearly to the point of making the president unaccountable and moonlighting as a would-be theocrat bent on purging American society of progressive ideals.

And yet, Trump’s flagrant touting of Barr’s intervention in Roger Stone’s sentencing this week (which prompted the resignation of all four prosecutors on the case) has Barr on the defensive. A day after agreeing to testify before the House Judiciary committee, the attorney general spoke to ABC, and told the network that the president’s tweets (among other things) make it “impossible” for him to do his job.

“Public statements, and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, about cases pending, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job”, Barr said.


He also said it’s become impossible to “assure the courts and the prosecutors within the department that we’re doing our work with integrity”.

Asked directly if he is “prepared for the ramifications” of his remarks, Barr paused. “Of course. As I said during my confirmation, I came in to serve as attorney general… I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anyone whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial boards or the president”.

There are a couple of things to note here. First, it’s entirely possible Barr told Trump what he was going to say and made it clear that saying this on television would help with the terrible optics around the Stone debacle. Second, as one former federal prosecutor said Thursday, “this just shows Barr doesn’t like Trump talking openly about what’s really going on – Barr helping out Trump’s buddy [and] making sure he doesn’t cooperate”. In other words, what Barr really means is this: “Trump’s tweets make my job impossible because those tweets draw attention to some of the worst abuses of power in the history of the republic”.

However, Barr also told ABC the following: “I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me”.

If that’s a reference to Trump’s tweets, it’s hard to imagine Trump would have countenanced that kind of rebuke, but who knows. Maybe it’s just three-dimensional chess to make it appear as though Barr still retains some shred of credibility.

One thing that’s at least worth considering: Barr is, perhaps more than anyone else in Trump’s orbit, indispensable. As The New Yorker put it in a profile piece last month, Barr is “sword and shield” for this president. He can, in theory anyway, get away with more than anyone else (save perhaps Mitch McConnell) when it comes to criticizing Trump.

Speaking of McConnell, he told Fox News on Thursday that the president should listen to Barr: “I think if the attorney general says it’s getting in the way of doing his job, maybe the president should listen to the attorney general”.

And yet, this came on the same day that Trump lambasted John Kelly for comments made during an event at Drew University on Wednesday.

“When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head”, the president fumed. “He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action [and] just can’t keep his mouth shut”, Trump went on to say.

The president then mentioned Kelly’s wife. “His incredible wife, Karen, who I have a lot of respect for, once pulled me aside [and] said strongly that ‘John respects you greatly. When we are no longer here, he will only speak well of you.’ Wrong!”

Trump does that habitually. And it’s always the same unspoken message. It’s a tacit threat. The same as that scene in Goodfellas when Jimmy The Gent takes the truck driver’s license out of his wallet and replaces it with a $50. “You may know who we are, but we know who you are, understand?”, Jimmy says.

Barr’s comments to ABC Thursday were almost surely choreographed with the White House. But no matter how integral Barr thinks he is, the first time he criticizes America’s home-grown autocrat without permission, he’ll be Jeff Sessions in no time flat.


9 comments on “William Barr Says Trump’s Tweets Make AG Job ‘Impossible’. Real Criticism Or Ruse?

  1. Barr to Trump (via ABCNews): “Hey, dumba**, I can’t do my job, which is to cover your large behind, if you insist on blowing my cover every time I try to fix one of your messes.”

    • The Empty Wheel blog has a good take on Barr’s phony cri de coeur, including a few questions that any competent journalist would have asked: 1) how could you (AG Barr) ever justify overriding line prosecutors on a sentencing recommendation that deviated from guidelines; 2) have you ever done so in the past; 3) how could you (AG Barr) be –- as you claimed to be — surprised that prosecutors resigned given that this action is unprecedented and not justified by sentencing guidelines; and 4) do you (AG Barr) believe sentencing guidelines were too harsh and should be amended downward, even while you malign DAs around the country for advocating lesser sentences?

  2. Sorry, no sympathy for the Devil

    Please allow me to introduce myself
    I’m a man of wealth and taste
    I’ve been around for a long, long year
    Stole many a man’s soul and faith
    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guess my name
    But what’s puzzling you
    Is the nature of my game

  3. Total setup. There is unrest at DOJ and this is the way to try to tamp that down, protect trump from the abuse of power (again) charge, and just plain try to fog up the rouge nature of his (their) tenure.

    Barr has zero credibility and is not finding “religion” now.

    If it is truly impossible he should have resigned as anyone with integrity would do (or I guess they would not have taken the job in the first place so maybe this really isn’t an option).

    Just another day of the
    trump machine at work……….

  4. He is a poser therefore it is a ruse.

  5. Or, “constant background commentary that undercuts me” maybe refers to our currently free press?

    • That’s what I was thinking. Barr isn’t referring to Trump’s noise, he’s referring to the noise of the press shining a light on his/their actions

  6. At any rate, for every competent person who leaves government, there is no dearth of grifting hacks eager to take their place.

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