Thursday, February 13, 2020

UPDATED: AG Barr Is Upset With The President

Barr did a five minute or so interview with ABC, in which he stated that Trump's tweets are making it "impossible" for him to do his job. He goes on to explain that this is especially difficult when Trump comments on pending criminal cases and on judges before whom DoJ attorneys have to appear. Apparently Barr thinks that judges who are displeased at being the target of Trump's tweeting will take their displeasure out on government attorneys--which is an interesting concept for the AG to express. Some might take it to be a pretty harsh criticism of the modern judicial branch.

I can understand the real reason for Barr's displeasure. The timing of the latest tweet tended to make Barr look like he was taking direction from Trump via Twitter in running DoJ--that Trump tweets and Barr asks how high to jump. It's an absurd extrapolation from the actual facts, but perception matters in real life, and especially in politics. Excerpts:

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas. 
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody ... whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr said. 
“I’m gonna do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

The other side of the coin--and there definitely is one--is that many of these cases were clearly initiated based on political bias against Trump, and the MSM serves as an echo chamber for the narrative that these efforts to undercut the president are intended to advance. Devin Nunes has been stressing MSM collusion with Trump's foes at every opportunity recently, and there's no doubt that these cases are part of that anti-Trump narrative. Thus, it's simply a fact of American political life that unless Trump tweets, he won't get his side of the story out and average citizens will be left to assume that where there's smoke there's fire. Isn't that what happened with the 2018 midterm elections?

Hopefully Barr and Trump can work out some sort of modus vivendi as regards Twitter. Barr's concerns are understandable, yet it's unreasonable to ignore the simple fact that these cases are going on in an intensely political environment and that they require a political as well as a legal response. Further, as we saw--and continue to see--in the Impeachment Theater, the Russia Hoax continues to be the go to meme for Dems. It certainly figured in the Stone trial and the Manafort trial, both handled by Judge Amy. How reasonable is it for Barr to expect Trump to ignore the judicial aspect of the Russia Hoax when the judicial aspect is very obviously being used for political effect? 

Greater tweeting discretion might help. Perhaps Trump needs to meet with Barr and clear the air. Perhaps Barr's interview is the result of a bit of air-clearing.

Interestingly, this morning NeverTrump Paul Mirengoff defended Trump's criticism of judges, and I agree with his views:

President Trump is under fire again for criticizing federal judges. His latest criticism of a judge comes in connection with Roger Stone’s case. 
I can’t discern a good reason for objecting to a president criticizing a judge. ... 
... Trump gives courts the respect they deserve when the administration complies, as it invariably has, with court decisions. 
... The executive and legislative branches are coequal and they attack each other all the time. 
To exempt the judiciary branch from criticism would be to signal that it is greater than, not coequal to, the other branches. It would reinforce the view that judges are our “robed masters.” 
Federal judges have life tenure to protect them against retaliation by the executive and (except in extraordinary circumstances) the legislature. This should be enough to prevent them from being swayed by criticism from the president. 
So again, I just don’t see a legitimate basis for the hand-wringing about Trump’s criticism of judges. It strikes me as just another weak anti-Trump talking point.

That's an interesting picture--Barr indulging in weak anti-Trump talking points!

UPDATE: I happen to largely agree with sundance's take at CTH, which is more measured than usual, and omits the Barr-the-piper photo:

If President Trump saying “this case sucks” via Twitter is enough to collapse the institutional objectives of a modern judicial system… and impede the ability of the U.S. Attorney General to do his job, well, what does that say about how weak and compromised the guardians have allowed that system to become?
Then again, that level of institutional compromise explains exactly why a fraudulent impeachment attempt was even possible.

And Trump is taking Barr's interview totally in stride--as he should:

Kaitlan Collins
In a new statement, Stephanie Grisham says Trump has "full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law" and he "wasn’t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions."
4:54 PM · Feb 13, 2020

For the rest, I think we get it right in the comments section here--albeit perhaps unintentional, this is probably a signal that we can expect significant develops in the not too distant future.


  1. Timing, timing timing. Why would Barr choose THIS moment to assert his independence from the WH?

    My working hypothesis is DOJ is about to unleash something very BIG. Barr wants to get separation from Trump before he unleashes Hell on the Deep State, to minimize the inevitable allegations that he's just doing Trump's bidding.

    Asserting his independence now clears the way for DOJ to start unsealing indictments(?) under circumstances where the public has at least heard him assert that independence, minimizing the extent to which it is characterized a politically motivated cooption of DOJ by the WH.

    Just a theory...

    1. I wouldn't be at all surprised. There are a lot of rumbles, fed especially by Devin Nunes, that developments are about to begin. I understand Barr's concerns, but there is a balance here and another side to it.

    2. I think Trump has to respect Barr's 'independence' and he must not be seen to be directing Barr. This is in Trump's best interests. Trump certainly must not push Barr too far. He can ill afford to lose him.

    3. No doubt about it, and Trump has repeatedly expressed his high opinion of Barr. Rightly so.

    4. It's all over the wires etc. now, that DoJ says that they'll not charge McCabe, for lying about leaks about the Clinton Foundation probe.
      As you might expect, CTH folks are treating this as proof of Barr's perfidy.

  2. I saw the various articles on Barr’s ABC statement and thought “strategery”… I believe President Trump will assume the same. Barr had to put some air between the President and himself. This gave him the perfect opportunity considering what we have good reason to believe is coming.

    1. Yes. I would hope so. I would hope that they spoke, or at the least Barr and Cipollone spoke, before the interview.

  3. The criticism of the Judge and Mueller's mouthpieces are entirely justified. They have brought shame and disgrace upon out justice system. The fact that the judge allowed that woman to sit on a jury is justified her being criticized. The mouthpieces should be barred.

    Rob S

  4. I can see both the President's and the AG's viewpoints. Whether it's separation/independence posturing or true irritation, I don't know.

    Some legal winning by our side will bring a smile to both of their faces.

  5. Cates has a funny take


    Trump needs to FIRE THIS GUY fast!!!!"

    Thank God Twitter is not real life.
    This is literally a DAY after Trump & Barr tag teamed Jessie Liu with the ultimate game of musical chairs and left her standing out in the cold right after the 4 Stone prosecutors discovered they had no cover and rushed to resign.


  6. Trump apparently has no issues with what his AG said.

    Thing is, even if it does make Barr's job harder, this is Trump's way of communicating to the public and, at times, his own employees.

  7. Barr is right, insofar as the President's tweets about Stone's sentencing recommendation placed him in a box, wherein it's extremely difficult for him to credibly carry out his duties as Attorney General. Barr is serious about getting to the bottom of the whole collusion delusion. If that investigation by Durham ends in indictments it would be most unhelpful if Trump were tweeting through the wee hours about those pending cases, which would give credence to the narrative that Barr is simply satisfying Trump's urge for vengeance against his enemies. So, Barr isn't wrong to publicly urge the president to stop tweeting about pending DOJ matters - especially those that pertain to friends of his and the investigation into his campaign and himself.

    However, if Kim Strassel's reporting is correct:

    "Here’s what actually happened: Justice sources tell me that interim U.S. Attorney Tim Shea had told the department’s leadership he and other career officials in the office felt the proposed sentence was excessive. As the deadline for the filing neared, the prosecutors on the case nonetheless threatened to withdraw from the case unless they got their demands for these stiffest of penalties. Mr. Shea—new to the job—suffered a moment of cowardice and submitted to this ultimatum. The filing took Justice Department leaders by surprise, and the decision to reverse was made well before Mr. Trump tweeted, and with no communication with the White House."

    Then it's apparent that Barr is struggling to suture a wounded DOJ, and it's not especially surprising that Trump blew a gasket when he learned that his DOJ recommended that a friend of his for the past 40 years should spend what's likely to be the rest of his life in federal prison, over crimes (at least some of which Stone clearly committed, IMO) that germinated from a poisonous tree - Crossfire Hurricane/Mueller Probe. Barr bounced Liu and placed a reported confidant - Shea - at the head of the Washington office, yet Shea (and therefore Barr as well) still got rolled, embarrassed by partisan line attorneys.

    I don't envy Barr's task, and I believe he's the best man to clean up the mess that is the Department of Justice at present. Hopefully, Trump abides by the sentiment expressed by his press secretary after Barr's interview, and we don't wake up to an early morning tweet from Trump blasting Barr. A little detente could go along way.

    1. Thanks for that. I'll be reading Strassel shortly. I agree with your sentiments on this. Shea--very disappointing. He was put there to take control. If Barr thinks Trump tweeting makes his job impossible, "friends" like Shea make it worse--if that were possible. It's stuff like that leads to Trump tweets.

  8. I didn't believe Barr spoke as reported, so I found the video, and yes, he actually bitched about Trump tweeting – “It makes it impossible for me to do my job” - which simply makes Barr look like an adolescent loser. Is this a turf battle between 2 alpha-males? Frankly, it makes Barr, the complainer, look weak. He knows the White House phone number, right? Afraid to make a call?

    Trump has had only positive things to say/tweet about Barr. But now Barr is criticizing Trump. Quite a reversal of the Trump/Sessions dynamic. Maybe that’s a sign that Barr isn’t a pathetic wimp, doesn’t tolerate any degree of interference, and will actually enforce the f…ing law. Or maybe it’s a sign that Barr feels defeated by the entrenched Democrat DoJ bureaucracy, and he’s looking for an excuse to quit.

    1. I think it was phrased generally but that Barr had the Stone case very specifically in mind. I think it's more a matter of appearances. They need to talk about it, and I suspect they have and arranged this interview and response tweet.

    2. The MSM, to no ones surprise, is taking the quote out of the context of a larger comment Barr was making about pressure of all sorts from any source that makes his job difficult. Trump's tweets that criticize the DOJ were but one example of things that make his job difficult.

      In the larger context, the specific reference to Trump's tweets is made in passing; it isn't the central point that Barr was talking about. He states he isn't going to be "bullied" adn gives long list of people who hypothetically might bully him. Trump was just one of a number of people on the list that also included editorial writers, publishers, social media pressure, etc.

  9. Unfortunate that Shea knuckled under to their extortion. Would have been better to demand their resignations.

    It still seems to me they purposefully set about to create the confrontation over sentencing; if they got their way, the sentence is consistent with their view that the Russia collusion was serious and real. IF they didn't, they all quit and pretend there's some sort of crisis and Barr's to blame. And either way, they have a distraction against whatever may be coming downhill at the Coup Conspirators.

  10. I had read the same thing elsewhere about Shea’s folding, giving in to those prosecutors re the sentence. He was highly touted as being Barr’s most trusted adviser/aide/whatever. Barr really like him. Now this. He has more to worry about than PDJT’s tweets, but I believe that creating distance between himself and PDJT is not a bad idea right now. It also distances PDJT from Barr’s bad appointment of Shea.

  11. I am of the mind of Mark that Barr has his own reputation on the line and did not have to do this thankless job.

    Thing is, that describes Trump too.

  12. Everybody has good points. The thing that Barr has to keep in mind is that DoJ is a Dept. of Justice, not a Dept. of Convictions. Ultimately, the president is responsible for the administration of justice, for the fair enforcement of the laws. It's not reasonable to just tell POTUS to butt out of DoJ affairs, when he was elected to bring about reform.

    Communication is the answer.