Bill Barr's profile in cowardice
He would live in an autocracy ruled by a man he describes as "dangerous" before he'd vote for a Democrat.
Let me start today’s newsletter by stating clearly that I think the book-related image rehab tours a number of Trumpworld figures have done in recent years are gross. They’re cash grabs from people trying absolve themselves of responsibility for bad things that happened when they were in positions of power. I can’t blame anyone for ignoring them.
But I think comments former Attorney General Bill Barr made during NBC interviews ahead of the release of his own book warrant some attention — in one case because of what he said, and in another because of Trump’s unhinged reaction to seeing him on his TV.
To be clear, we’ve known Barr is a slippery operator since he followed up his evasive confirmation hearing by manipulating the results of the Mueller report to create a false impression of Trump’s exoneration. (The oldsters among us have known since Ronald Reagan pardoned six people convicted in the Iran-Contra scandal on Barr’s advice.) Barr spent the next two years acting more like Trump’s defense attorney than the attorney general. It was a disgraceful tenure that couldn’t be redeemed by Barr’s rebuking of Trump’s election lies before he resigned in December 2020. Even then, his departure was accompanied by a letter in which he fawned over Trump and praised him for “unprecedented achievements you have delivered for the American people.” But even that final display of bootlicking wasn’t enough to prevent Barr from falling out of Trump’s good graces, seemingly permanently.
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We’ll get to that later. To begin with, I want to focus on comments Barr made to Today host Savannah Guthrie on Monday suggesting there’s nothing Trump could do that would stop Barr from voting for him again.
Guthrie didn’t do a perfect job fact-checking Barr, but she was impressively prepared for the interview and contrasted claims Barr makes in his book (he told Trump to his face his claims of election fraud were “BS” and thinks he’s “dangerous” to the country) with the actual facts (his fawning resignation statement).
Guthrie closed the interview by asking him an important and revealing question — in light of Trump’s efforts to undermine elections, could he vote for him again?
“Because I believe the greatest threat to the country is the progressive agenda being pushed by the Democratic Party, it's inconceivable to me I wouldn't vote for the Republican nominee,” Barr said.
Guthrie pushed back.
“So even if he lied about the election and threatened democracy, as you write in your book, better than a Democrat?” she asked.
“As of now it’s hard to conceive I wouldn’t vote for the Republican nominee,” Barr replied.
This, of course, is the same argument many Republicans used to talk themselves into voting for Trump in 2016 — sure, he might not have the temperament or character to be president, but Hillary Clinton was even worse. We all witnessed how disastrously that line of thinking played out, and Barr saw it up close and personal — in fact, he’s now selling a book with a title nodding at how dysfunctional the Trump White House was (“One Damn Thing After Another”) — and yet.
Barr’s comments about voting for Trump again are even less defensible in light of a letter Trump wrote that Axios published around the same time Barr was on with Guthrie. In it, Trump complains to NBC’s Lester Holt about the interview Holt did last week with Barr. He demeans his former attorney general as “slow, lethargic,” and “virtually worthless to Law and Order and Election Integrity.”
"I would imagine that if the book is anything like him, it will be long, slow, and very boring," Trump wrote.
Ouch. And what did Barr say to Holt to get Trump mad? Just that Trump’s claims of fraud following the 2020 election were “bullshit,” which of course they in fact were.
It’s not exactly breaking news that Trump will never stop lying about the 2020 election. But what struck me about his letter to Holt is how desperate he is to convince him that he’s not full of it.
“Enclosed is yesterday’s Wisconsin Report talking of widespread corruption,” Trump wrote, encouraging Holt to check it out. And while it’s true the Wisconsin report does talk about corruption, the reality is it’s chock full of the same debunked conspiracy theories and legal falsehoods that Trump has been peddling for well over a year now. He’ll never be dissuaded.
Does NBC have better things to do than helping Barr sell books with two high-profile interviews in one week? No doubt. Is Barr’s position that Trump is dangerous and erratic but he’ll vote for him anyway something we’re likely to hear more of over the next three years? Also yes. And will Trump continue to be a huge whiny baby? Absolutely.
Let’s just hope TV producers don’t fall as deeply in love with Barr as they did with Chris Christie back when he was making his image-rehabbing book tour last November and appearing on MSNBC and CNN multiple times daily. And for goodness’ sake, if you must read Barr’s book, don’t buy it — go check it out from a library or something.
“One too many chair shots”
If you’ve followed me on Twitter for some time, you’re probably aware that I’m a fan of professional wrestling, and in particular of AEW (All Elite Wrestling). I’ll save my discussion about why I think wrestling is awesome for another time, but today I want to acknowledge subtle political statements AEW wrestlers made at recent shows.
On Sunday’s pay per view show in Orlando, Florida, AEW World Champion Adam “Hangman” Page — a former full-time high school journalism and graphic design teacher — wore rainbow colors to the ring. His sartorial choice was a gesture of solidarity with the LGBTQ community in a state where Republicans are in the process of passing a “Don’t Say Gay” bill aimed at chilling discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
Page has been outspoken about supporting Ukraine in recent days as well. Late last month, he responded to an anti-anti-Putin tweet from Glenn “Kane” Jacobs, a WWE wrestler-turned-Republican Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, by highlighting ways people can support Ukrainians — and suggesting Kane may have taken one too many chairshots.
Page’s gesture of solidarity in Florida came a few months after CM Punk made a similar statement in Texas by wearing a shirt featuring ovaries with text that read, “Get your own then tell it what to do.” At the time Texas was in the process of passing a law banning most abortions.
Count these political statements as one of many reasons I think AEW is the premier wrestling promotion.
Jen Psaki and Fox News’s Peter Doocy had a memorably tense exchange during the White House press briefing on Monday, with Psaki pushing back on Doocy’s questions about rising gas prices by telling him, “Let me give you the facts here. And I know that can be inconvenient, but I think they're important in this moment.”
Psaki then laid out why a talking point currently in vogue on the right — that Biden isn’t doing enough to encourage domestic energy production — is mistaken.
You can watch my video thread starting with the tweet below.
That’s it for today!
I’ll be back with more tomorrow.