Donald Trump famously said that he could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not "lose any voters." I don't know about that. But I'm confident that he wouldn't lose Bill Barr.
Execution privilege, Barr would probably call it. He'd release a statement or hold a news conference to say that Trump had a spastic trigger finger or was triggered by Adam Schiff or was set up by those dastardly Ukrainians, who are never up to any good. Such is the magnitude of Barr's servility, the doggedness of his deference. He's the president's moral launderer. Trump does evil, and Barr washes him clean.
As attorney general, he's supposed to be the nation's lawyer. But he has bought into the autocratic delusion that Trump equals America, that national interest and presidential prerogative are inextricably intertwined.
On Monday, showing fresh contempt for the people who work under him in the Justice Department, Barr renounced a determination by the department's inspector general that the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia was legitimate and that anti-Trump bias was not its animating force. He did this instantly.
And then, on Tuesday, did it again, with even less subtlety and more sanctimony. "It was a travesty," he said of the investigation, and he was speaking not just of the sloppiness and haste of some of the FBI's actions, with which the inspector general also took issue. He was dismissing the whole effort as rotten.
It was an eerie echo of his efforts last spring, when he sought to neuter Robert Mueller's findings about the Trump campaign's openness to Russian help and the president's attempts to obstruct justice.
But what of the Constitution? What of common decency? Barr isn't concerning himself with those. To do so would call into question the honor of serving in this administration, the compliment of holding the job that Trump gave him. And he wants that compliment. That pedestal. He prefers to see himself as a holy warrior than as an unholy dupe.
The wonder of this wretched moment has never been the existence and stench of a bad egg in the Oval Office. That's hardly strange, given how ably shamelessness serves ambition. The wonder is how many other bad eggs the current president has assembled or hatched. The wonder is this fluffy, funky omelet of unscrupulousness.
All these supposedly godly men — Barr, Pompeo, Mike Pence, Ben Carson, Rick Perry and more — cluster around such a demonstrably godless one. They rationalize that Trump's indulgence of certain religious factions absolves him of his sins. Barr is the principal agent of that absolution.
He's also a paragon of hypocrisy, telling Pete Williams of NBC News that the FBI investigation of Trump's campaign was an ominous abuse of government power for partisan aims. That description better suits the conduct for which Trump is about to be impeached. I don't know how Barr kept a straight face.
Actually, I do. Since betrothing himself to Trump, he has had ample practice. In a speech two months ago at Notre Dame, without any palpable sense of irony, he urged a "moral renaissance" and delivered this priceless line: "No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity." I agree.
In our society, impeachment is one of those means. The law is another. And if Barr could dig out his conscience from under all those layers of ego, he'd see that the rapacious individual in direst need of restraint is the one he's letting roam free.
The New York Times