Three damn things

In his post on Bill Barr, Lloyd Billingsley draws on One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General to mount a critique of Barr’s service as AG in two administrations, the second time at the behest of President Trump. Along with former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, I thought Barr was one of Trump’s most impressive appointees. If Trump were to be reelected in 2024, I think he would be fortunate to recruit such men or women to serve in his administration.

Lloyd faulted Barr and his memoir in the 2022 review he wrote for American Greatness and then followed up in a subsequent column. I get a different impression of Barr’s service from the memoir than the one that Lloyd conveys. Here I want only to carve out three paragraphs of the memoir that bear on what Lloyd wrote in his post yesterday.

With respect to the issue of voter fraud in the election of 2020, Lloyd writes that Barr failed to indicate what independent election investigations or audits he had conducted or consulted. This is certainly true insofar as independence means detachment from the department under Barr’s authority. Such independent reviews constituted the task to be performed by Trump’s legal team outside the Department of Justice. However, Barr writes in the prologue at page 3:

In the weeks after the election, accusations of major fraud center on several claims: allegations that counting machines from the Dominion Voting Systems Corporation had been rigged; that video footage from Fulton County, Georgia, showed a box of bogus ballots being insinuated into the vote count while poll watchers were absent; that massive numbers of ballots for Joe Biden had been inexplicitly [sic] dumped in the early morning hours in Detroit and Milwaukee; that thousands of votes in Nevada had been cast by nonresidents; that more absentee ballots than had been requested were cast in Pennsylvania; and that a truck driver had delivered many thousands of filled-out ballots from Bethpage, Long Island, to Pennsylvania. I had asked all the Department of Justice (DOJ) office heads around the country, working with the FBI, to look into these and a number of similar claims. Some turned out to be patently frivolous; others just were not supported by available evidence.

Lloyd also cites Barr’s reference to John Brennan at page 190 of the book. As Lloyd suggests, Brennan is an execrable reprobate and partisan liar. However, Barr cites Brennan to condemn the (mis)treatment of the Trump campaign by senior management of the FBI. Here is the context of Barr’s reference to Brennan:

Giving a defensive briefing to the Trump campaign was clearly the right action to take if the FBI’s priority was, as it claims, to protect the integrity of the [2016] election and stop any Russian interference. Earlier in 2016, when the FBI detected foreign money being channeled illegally into the Clinton campaign, it did exactly that: gave the Clinton campaign a defensive briefing. The bureau has never provided a plausible explanation why it didn’t do the same for the Trump campaign. What is particularly inexplicable is that, while refusing to give the Trump campaign a defensive briefing, the intelligence chiefs agreed to “call out” the Russians directly about their activity — the actors we knew were the “bad guys.” In August John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, braced the head of Russian intelligence twice, signifying the United States knew what the Russians were doing and that they had better stop it. Then President Obama talked to President Putin in September with the same message. Any claim that the FBI could not approach the Trump campaign because of a need to protect “sources and methods” rings hollow in light of these conversations. It makes no sense that the United States would be willing to inform the Russians that we knew what they were up to, but that the FBI would be unwilling to give a defensive briefing to an American presidential candidate’s campaign.

Lloyd mentions the unenumerated crimes of Hillary Clinton. They raise issues that predate Barr’s service, but they came up in his job interview with Trump (at page 214):

The President went on to make a comment about Hillary Clinton that surprised me. He said that, despite chants of “Lock her up!” from some of his supporters, he had felt after the 2016 election that the e-mail matter should be dropped. Even if she were guilty, he said, for the election winner to seek prosecution of the loser would make the county look like a “banana republic.”

On this point and others Trump proved himself vastly superior to his opponents, including the winners of the 2020 election. I would add that in this context Barr’s account of his job interview with Trump and his decision to take the job despite reservations (chapter 9) is particularly interesting and impressive, although I confess I found the whole book interesting and impressive.

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