Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Login
BROWSE
Bloomberg Law
Welcome
Login
Advanced Search Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

The Bill Barr Show Is Distressingly Entertaining

June 17, 2022, 2:21 PM

All of a sudden, he’s Mr. Integrity. And Mr. Entertainment. All wrapped up in one neat package.

Among the stunning parade of ex-Trumpsters gingerly throwing the 45th president under the bus at the Jan. 6 hearings, Bill Barr is the indisputable poo-bah. He didn’t tap dance around about what he thought of the claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

“I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit,” boomed Barr in a clip shown on the first day of the hearing.

In case you missed it, his message is this: He defended reason, truth, and the American Way. And he won’t put up with “bullshit.”

But isn’t B.S. exactly what he’s now peddling to us?

Of all the Trump apologists who are now supposedly speaking truth to power, I find Barr the most disingenuous—and that’s saying a lot, considering the rogue players in Trump’s orbit.

During his testimony, Barr made grand statements of what he wouldn’t put up with. “You can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election,” he said. And he explained why he finally quit his powerful perch as attorney general: “I didn’t want to be a part of it, and that’s one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did.”

But only a few months before his resignation from the Trump administration, Barr was himself fanning the flames that dark forces could “steal” the presidential election. He questioned the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and said, “a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots,” ominously adding, “it can upset and undercut the confidence in the integrity of our elections.”

As for his own resignation that he’s now touting as a badge of honor, the actual text of his departure letter to Trump was nauseatingly fawning. Not only did he not condemn the stolen election lie, he used the occasion to heap praise on just about everything Trump has touched—the economy, the military, the Middle East, immigration, and more. Barr also played up to Trump’s sense of grievance (“Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance.”)

I know it’s ancient history now but let me remind you of some of Barr’s other shenanigans. Foremost is how he totally distorted and trashed the Mueller Report. And too frequently he ran the Justice Department like a concierge service for Trump’s buddies, such as the time DOJ intervened to get a lighter sentence for Roger Stone after he was convicted of lying to Congress or suddenly dropped charges against Michael Flynn after he admitted lying to the FBI.

Besides the blatant hypocrisy, what’s galling is that Barr is absolutely shameless—much more so than the other Trump supporters who’ve testified so far.

For whatever it’s worth, most didn’t seem too thrilled to be testifying. Some looked sheepish (Jason Miller, all masked up, revealing that Trump was taking advice from a “very inebriated” Rudy Giuliani), annoyed (Jared Kushner begrudgingly admitting that he disagreed with Trump’s plan to overturn the election—"not the approach I would take if I were you”), or a bit pained (Ivanka, now cast as Goneril or Regan, saying she accepted the election result because Barr said it was legit—"I respect Attorney General Barr so I accepted what he said”).

So far, the only witness giving Barr a run for his money for chutzpah is former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who proudly declared himself as part of “team normal,” as opposed to the nutty Giuliani team, which includes hardcore truth deniers Lin Wood, Sidney Powell, and Cleta Mitchell.

But Stepien was obvious about why he’s now coming clean: “I’ve built up a pretty good, I hope, a good reputation for being honest and professional. I didn’t think what was happening was necessarily honest or professional at that point in time. So that led to me stepping away.” (Fun fact: Stepien was the love interest of Bridget Anne Kelly, who was blamed for the Bridgegate scandal when they both worked for Chris Christie, then governor of New Jersey. Though both were implicated in closing the George Washington Bridge to embarrass a Democratic mayor, Kelly’s career never recovered.)

It’s not pretty to watch members of this gang confess that they knew the destruction that Trump was sowing. I’d like to think they’re all slightly embarrassed by their roles in propping up a dangerous leader. But Barr? He seems to be savoring every minute of his testimony. He curses, laughs, gestures, and otherwise struts his stuff.

He’s betting that the nation and history will be so bedazzled by his performance that we’ll forget his role as enabler-in-chief.

Indeed, liberals seem to be relishing Barr’s role as the guy who’s sticking it to Trump—despite Barr’s baffling pledge that he’d still vote for Trump in 2024 if he were the Republican nominee because, said Barr, “I believe that the greatest threat to the country is the progressive agenda being pushed by the Democratic Party.”

So is all forgiven? And does it all signal the redemption of Barr?

“I wouldn’t call it redemption, but I’d welcome any member of the Trump’s administration who says a line was crossed and that there’s no stolen election,” said Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel litigation chair Barry Berke, who served as lead counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives in Trump’s impeachment before the Senate. “At some point, Barr drew a line, and I respect that act.”

Though Berke said he doesn’t condone “the acts that preceded it,” he’s willing to be generous. “Ultimately, Barr committed to coming before the committee, and he laid out the facts. He definitely improved his karma score.” Besides, added Berke, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. So how will Barr emerge from this mess?

Chances are his state of grace will be fleeting. As Barr knows only too well, the B.S. will catch up with you.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vivia Chen in New York at vchen@bloombergindustry.com