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The problem with Bill Barr’s denunciation of his former boss

Former Attorney General William Barr is burning his bridge with Trump World, but his record chases after him like cans tied to his bumper.


Former Attorney General William Barr has taken some notable steps away from Trump World since leaving office in December 2020, but the Republican lawyer has clearly taken his efforts to a new level with his new book. The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend:

Former Attorney General William Barr writes in a new book that former President Donald Trump has “shown he has neither the temperament nor persuasive powers to provide the kind of positive leadership that is needed,” and that it is time for Republicans to focus on rising new leaders in the party.

Barr’s critique appears largely unreserved, writing that Trump likely would’ve won a second term if he’d been capable of “moderating even a little of his pettiness.”

As for the former president’s brazen lying about his 2020 defeat, Barr’s book argues, “The election was not ‘stolen.’ Trump lost it.” The former attorney general is now convinced that Trump “cared only about one thing: himself. Country and principle took second place.”

Barr also sees his former boss as an “incorrigible” narcissist whose post-election lies did “a disservice to the nation.” He now wants his party to look to new leaders who lack Trump’s “erratic personal behavior.”

The idea of Trump running a third national campaign is, as the former attorney general put it, is “dismaying.”

To be sure, while the provocative language in Barr’s book is new, his criticisms of the former president are not. Circling back to our earlier coverage, in the aftermath of Trump’s defeat, Barr seemed eager to put some distance between himself and the failed president. In early December 2020, for example, as Trump desperately looked for ways to overturn the election results, Barr publicly conceded that there was no evidence to bolster conspiracy theories about “fraud.”

A month later, the Republican lawyer accused Trump of “inexcusable“ behavior on Jan. 6. “The president’s conduct yesterday was a betrayal of his office,” Barr said the day after the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

A few months later, Barr sat down with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and went a little further. Referring to Trump’s election conspiracy theories, the former attorney general said, “It was all bulls***.”

The former president issued a hysterical written statement soon after, lashing out at Barr as a “spineless RINO” and a “disappointment in every sense of the word.”

For Trump’s critics, Barr’s denunciations are likely welcome. After all, a great many Republicans who worked closely with Trump now want nothing to do with him. The more the list grows, with prominent and high-profile GOP voices, the worse it becomes for the former president, especially as he eyes the 2024 cycle.

But let’s not brush past the fact that when it comes to Barr and his credibility, the former attorney general is a poor messenger.

Indeed, he may have no use for Trump’s election lies now, but in the recent past, Barr was only too pleased to peddle absurd election conspiracy theories of his own. It was part of a multi-year effort in which Barr, to a degree unseen in the post-Watergate era, politicized federal law enforcement and too often aligned the Justice Department with the White House’s partisan agenda.

On his way out the door, Barr even wrote an over-the-top resignation letter — delivered at a time when other Justice Department officials were still fighting the good fight in support of democracy — in which he celebrated the president he’s now denouncing.

I can appreciate why the Republican lawyer is eager, if not desperate, to rehabilitate his image, but the fact remains that Barr went along with Trump’s dangerous nonsense until it no longer suited his purposes. The former attorney general’s record chases after him like cans tied to his bumper, and his book doesn't cut the string.