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As he exits the Justice Dept, Barr leaves behind a shameful legacy

If the United States is lucky, we'll never see the likes of Bill Barr at the Justice Department again.
Image: U.S President Donald Trump holds an event to announce his nominee of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat
U.S. Attorney General William Barr attends an event for the announcement of President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court at the White House on Sept. 26, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

As recently as late last week, Attorney General Bill Barr was telling associates that he intended to remain in his position until the end of the Trump administration. Evidently, that didn't quite work out.

Attorney General William Barr will leave his position this month, President Donald Trump said in a tweet Monday. The news comes not long after Barr said there was no widespread fraud in the election, defying Trump, who has made baseless claims the basis of a failed legal bid to overturn the results and stay in power.

The outgoing president suggested Barr's departure would allow him to "spend the holidays with his family," which was odd given that he didn't need to leave the Justice Department in order to do so. Nevertheless, Trump added that Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen would serve as acting attorney general until the end of his term, which is now just 36 days away.

But as Barr prepares to exit the stage, it's worth taking stock of just how shameful his tenure has been and how long it will take to undo the harm the Republican lawyer has done.

As Rachel noted on last night's show, the outgoing attorney general, to a degree without modern precedent, brazenly used the Justice Department to serve the president directly. In practical terms, that meant settling scores for Donald Trump, protecting his friends, targeting his enemies, personally intervening in cases of political interest to the White House, and effectively creating two standards for justice in the United States: one for Trump and his team, and one for everyone else.

We're not supposed to have a system -- in fact, we cannot expect to maintain a system -- in which the attorney general essentially tries to fix federal cases the president cares about. And yet, that is precisely the operation that Barr was responsible for creating.

The outgoing attorney general also misled the public about the Mueller probe, lied about threats to the election, and helped orchestrate the Lafayette Square Scandal, dispatching security forces against unarmed protestors so that the president could wave around a Bible as part of an ugly photo-op.

It is no exaggeration to say that Barr created a federal law enforcement crisis at the Justice Department with his political antics. It's why literally thousands of former Justice Department and FBI officials -- from Democratic and Republican administrations -- called earlier this year for the attorney general to resign.

To be sure, Barr wasn't quite corrupt enough for Trump, and that created tensions that clearly led to yesterday's announcement. But given the scope of the damage done by the attorney general, that's cold comfort.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said in a written statement last night that Barr "kowtowed to President Trump's worst whims, unleashed federal law enforcement on peaceful protestors, and allowed the Trump administration to throw out law and order for the president's political allies. A disgusting legacy and stain on democracy."

If the United States is lucky, we'll never see the likes of Bill Barr at the Justice Department again.