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Let’s give Barr the credit he’s due for sort of standing up to Trump

The bar is low.

Attorney General Bill Barr
Many observers believe that Attorney General Bill Barr has been among the more servile of President Trump enablers.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

I’ve been lucky my whole working life to have worked for bosses who had integrity and respected my integrity. If we had differences, we could work them out, also with integrity, or at least that’s what I believe. And I’m grateful for it.

Those who work for Donald Trump aren’t so lucky. Trump scores near zero on the integrity scale (according to me, and, I suspect many who formerly worked for him although many of those do not feel free to speak candidly). He serves no interest other than his own, economic, political, sexual, self-glorification, whichever interests him at the moment and anyone who works for him or was married to him had better understand that, or they will soon be fired (or divorced).

Even poor ol’ Jeff Sessions, who seemed like a complete Trump toady, had a little too much loyalty to some concept of the proper role of an attorney general during his brief tenure, and he had to leave.

When Trump replaced Sessions with William Barr, Barr had a decent reputation as a career professional, but he soon sacrificed it to demonstrate total loyalty to Trump rather than to the special role of an A.G. to show a certain soupçon of independence traditional to that particular cabinet position. When Trump needed him to stoop, he merely inquired “how low?” His performance in the aftermath of the Mueller investigation illustrated this.

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So I was a little shocked yesterday to read that Barr stated publicly that he was “not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” including, apparently, His Highness.

Barr specified that Trump’s tweets and other attacks on the Justice Department for insufficient servility to His Excellency’s political- or ego-needs of the moment, made it “impossible for me to do my job.”

Of course, many observers believe that Barr has been among the more servile of Trump enablers and, for whatever reasons, had already cashed in his former reputation as a serious professional. And I remain to be convinced that Barr will stand up to Trump in any serious way, including the recent embarrassment over Trump’s demand that Trump’s buddy Roger Stone get a lighter sentence for his Trump-enabling crimes.

Stone is, of course, getting some relief from the sentence recommended by his prosecutors and the existing guidelines. Trump did publicly insist by tweet that this be done (presumably the tweets to which Barr referred), and it apparently will be done. So let’s not make too much of Barr’s snit-fit, alluded to above. (Barr claims that the decision to reduce Stone’s sentence from what the prosecutors in the case recommended was already in the works before Trump made his feelings known on the topic.)

But given Trump’s insistence on the perfection of all his impulses, and the terrible unfairnesses he is constantly required to endure, and his well-known willingness to trash and fire anyone who deigns to disagree with or criticize him, I thought it worth noting that Barr actually pushed back, however momentarily, and after doing exactly what Trump wanted.

This is the sound of one hand clapping.