The Washington Post reports that President Trump is “livid” at Attorney General Barr over his comments about election fraud and the fact that John Durham did not issue a report before the election. According to the Post, “one senior official indicat[ed] that there was a chance Barr could be fired.”
I don’t know whether Trump is thinking about firing Barr. I find it believable that Trump is angry with him.
It’s important to note what Barr did (and didn’t) say about the election. Barr never denied that there was fraud. He never denied that it was widespread. All he said was that he “has not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Barr’s statement was fair. There is no evidence in the public record of fraud on a scale that could have changed the outcome of the election. And, apparently, no evidence of fraud at that level has come to the Attorney General’s attention, either.
Nonetheless, the Justice Department has been inundated with angry complaints about its “failure” to contest the outcome of the election. Thus, it was reasonable for Barr to say what he did.
Indeed, even in the absence of angry complaints to the DOJ, I think it would have been reasonable for Barr to address the question of whether there is evidence of fraud of a magnitude that tipped the election. It’s a question of great moment to the nation, and the DOJ is in a position to address it knowledgeably.
As for the Durham report, investigations should take the time needed to complete them. They shouldn’t be timed to coincide with the political calendar.
Once it became clear that Durham might not be able to complete his investigation before January 20, 2001, Barr appointed him special counsel to protect against Durham’s dismissal, for political reasons, by a new administration. This was the right thing to do. Forcing, or attempting to force, a preelection report would have been the wrong thing to do.
President Trump has never accepted the fact that the Justice Department’s client is the United States, not the president. Nor does he seem to understand that his political interests and the interests of the United States are not identical.
When Barr became Attorney General, I heard some Trump supporters hail him, by way of contrast to Jeff Sessions, as a “wartime consigliere.” But the U.S. Attorney General is not (and should not be) any kind of consigliere, and I doubt that Barr ever regarded himself as such. (In fact, Barr said that Sessions “probably did the right thing” when he recused himself from the Russia investigation — the act that got Sessions permanently on the wrong side of Trump.)
In my opinion, William Barr has been the star of Trump’s cabinet. Moreover, the DOJ is still actively pursuing important matters and making important decisions.
Barr remains an asset in both regards. Firing him would be an act of pure petulance.