Saturday, August 17, 2019

Why Should We Trust Bill Barr?

In these slow news days, it may be useful to revisit the extensive interview that AG Bill Barr gave to Jan Crawford of CBS on May 30, 2019. The interview was very professionally handled by Crawford and, toward the end, elicited some remarks from Barr that have a direct bearing on the question of what he is seeking to accomplish as Attorney General--and why we should trust him. Recall that at the time of his confirmation Barr stated that he wanted to be of help in this circumstance--which, of course, could only be taken to mean the crisis of the Russia Hoax:

“I feel I’m in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences. In the sense that I can be truly independent,” Barr said.
He added: “I had a very good life. I have a very good life. I love it. But I also want to help in this circumstance, and I am not going to do anything that I think is wrong, and I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong. ... I’m going to do what I think is right.”

We saw the results of that determination to do what's right in Barr's handling of Team Mueller's attempt to sabotage the Trump presidency. His lack of concern for the firestorm of slander against him was apparent. That's the backdrop to the closing exchange of question and answer with Crawford:

JAN CRAWFORD: You are only the second Attorney General in history who's served twice. I think the first one was back in 1850. 
JAN CRAWFORD: But you are working for a man who is- I mean you are an establishment figure in a way. You've had a long career in Washington but you are working for a man who is not establishment. And some of his tweets about officials and the rule of law, how do you react when you see those? Are you on Twitter? Do you read his tweets?
WILLIAM BARR: No, I am not on Twitter and every once in a while a tweet is brought to my attention but my experience with the president is, we have- we have a good working, professional working relationship. We, you know, we talk to each other and if he has something to say to me I figure he'll tell me directly. I don't look to tweets for, you know, I don't look at them as directives or as official communications with the department. 
JAN CRAWFORD: But when you came into this job, you were kind of, it's like the US Attorney in Connecticut, I mean, you had a good reputation on the right and on the left. You were a man with a good reputation. You are not someone who is, you know, accused of protecting the president, enabling the president, lying to Congress. Did you expect that coming in? And what is your response to it? How do you? What's your response to that? 
WILLIAM BARR: Well in a way I did expect it. 
WILLIAM BARR: Yeah, because I realize we live in a crazy hyper-partisan period of time and I knew that it would only be a matter of time if I was behaving responsibly and calling them as I see them, that I would be attacked because nowadays people don't care about the merits and the substance. They only care about who it helps, who benefits, whether my side benefits or the other side benefits, everything is gauged by politics. And as I say, that's antithetical to the way the department runs and any attorney general in this period is going to end up losing a lot of political capital and I realize that and that is one of the reasons that I ultimately was persuaded that I should take it on because I think at my stage in life it really doesn't make any difference. 
JAN CRAWFORD: You are at the end of your career, or? 
WILLIAM BARR: I am at the end of my career. I've you know-- 
JAN CRAWFORD: Does it, I mean, it's the reputation that you have worked your whole life on though? 
WILLIAM BARR: Yeah, but everyone dies and I am not, you know, I don't believe in the Homeric idea that you know, immortality comes by, you know, having odes sung about you over the centuries, you know? 
JAN CRAWFORD: So you don't regret taking the job? 
JAN CRAWFORD: Not even today? 
WILLIAM BARR: I'd rather, in many ways, I'd rather be back to my old life but I think that I love the Department of Justice, I love the FBI, I think it's important that we not, in this period of intense partisan feeling, destroy our institutions. I think one of the ironies today is that people are saying that it's President Trump that's shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that, it is hard, and I really haven't seen bill of particulars as to how that's being done. From my perspective the idea of resisting a democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him and you know, really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president, that is where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring. 
JAN CRAWFORD: And you think that happened even with the investigation into the campaign, potentially? 
WILLIAM BARR: I am concerned about that. 

It's clear from this that Barr's perspective on his current service as AG is that he took the job primarily to defend the institution of the presidency. I use that expression--institution of the presidency--because Barr holds to the theory of the unitary executive, meaning, that the Executive Branch inhere's in the person of the President, not in subordinate departments and agencies, such as DoJ or the FBI. His loyalty is to the Executive--not to any of those subordinate offices, no matter how he may value their functions. The functions of those subordinate institutions are expressions of the Executive authority. They have no independent life of their own apart from the Executive--which inheres in the person of the president. For this reason, and based on his track record thus far, I maintain that we have every reason of confidence and trust in Barr's strategy for defending the presidency. It is his deepest commitment to do so.


  1. For myself I neither trust or distrust Mr. Barr. At this stage my trust is neither required or really significant. I don't know him personally and public persona's have recently been proven to be less than reliable (looking at you Mr. Meuller). that being said, my concern is that, even with the best intentions and highest integrity, the forces arrayed against him are truly formidable, both foreign and domestic, and utterly ruthless. I hope he stays well and alert (wouldn't want the linen to suddenly go rogue some dark night; it's been known to go straight for the hyoid when it does).
    Tom S.

    1. True. My intent was really to simply to underline his intentions and suggest that we should be confident that--short of civil war--he will carry on along that path. Maybe even if.

  2. I think it's pretty obvious that Barr is the best choice for AG that could have been approved by the Senate. And he has many attributes and experience that are well suited to the challenges that he faces. And he is doing things the "old school" way, which is a refreshing change from the cronyism and corruption of Holder and Lynch.

    However, I stand by my previous comments that Barr still views this fight in primarily legal terms and is not properly anticipating the extreme acts of desperation that may impact this nation when the Deep State escalates it's attacks. They have, and will continue, to come from many venues other than legal because Barr is too formidable in that arena. In the process, a lot of innocents have been, and likely will continue to be, harmed. This is because they are playing for keeps. And Barr is fighting with one hand tied behind his back because Wray is a Deep State Fifth Columnist, not an honorable or professional leader of the FBI. I sincerely wish Barr would bring in an aide with a combat background and no nonsense tough guy attitude.

    1. "Barr is the best choice for AG that could have been approved by the Senate."

      I think he was the best choice for the job, period.

      "Barr still views this fight in primarily legal terms"

      In what terms should an AG view it? Military?

      "I sincerely wish Barr would bring in an aide with a combat background and no nonsense tough guy attitude."

      “Bill was just an attack dog that was loosed on us”

      Barr is of the speak softly but carry a big stick school. He doesn't raise his voice, but his opponents know an attack dog when they see one:

      “He isn’t going to wilt in the face of heavy fire,” said Theodore Olson, a prominent Washington attorney who has known Mr. Barr since they worked together in the Reagan administration.
      “The telecommunications industry had really never seen anyone like Bill Barr,” said former Time Warner general counsel Paul Cappuccio.
      One former competitor said he couldn’t fault Mr. Barr for his aggressive tactics. “Bill was just an attack dog that [was] loosed on us,” the former rival said.

  3. Mark --

    You have often stated that you believe Barr's loyalty is to the Executive and, I think, that Barr believes in the unitary Executive. I assume you mean that Barr's loyalty is to the legitimate powers of the Executive Branch as enumerated in the Constitution and as determined by the Supreme Court in cases where it has construed the power of the Executive branch. And that the ultimate authority of the Executive branch is held by the President and not the other officers of the Executive branch.

    Perhaps its a bit of a rhetorical question but if you are of a mind to, would you elaborate on what 'loyalty to the Executive' and the unitary Executive means to you and how this loyalty is implicated in the extraordinary current political situation Barr finds himself in...and, in fact, we find ourselves in.

    Then, the rest of us can pile on...


    1. What I mean is that Barr is loyal to the Executive in the sense that he took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Since he regards the unitary Executive as part of our Constitution, he regards it as his duty to defend the prerogatives of a unitary Executive, just as he would defend the other fundamental elements of the Constitution. His interpretation, especially with regard to obstruction, seems reasonable to me:
      Barr to Rosey, esp. pp. 1-3.

      I haven't thought it through beyond that.

      However, here's an article that you and others might find very interesting--I will frankly state that there are aspects of it that I found somewhat dismaying The real reason Bill Barr is defending Trump.

  4. Well stated, Mr. Wauck. There is little to no daylight between us regarding Mr. Barr.

    As I've said before, he is the right man for the right job at the right time. Our nation needs him.

    As I'm getting to know Mr. Barr through his comments, I'd say that he spoke volumes about the President when he stated that it isn't the President who is shredding the norms of our nation.