The Press Continues to Help Billy Barr Whitewash His Complicity in January 6

Among the things Bill Barr did in his second tour as Attorney General were to:

In short, over an extended period, Bill Barr laid the groundwork for the two-month effort to undermine the election that culminated in a coup attempt. The outcome of Barr’s actions — the disparate treatment by the department of Trump supporters, the empowerment of right wing terrorists, the continued influence of Powell and Rudy —  was foreseeable. Nevertheless, Barr persisted with those policies that laid the groundwork for the January 6 insurrection.

In spite of that record, Barr continues to find journalists willing to spin a fairytale completely inconsistent with this record, one of Barr standing up to Trump as he pursued this path.

Consider this account of Bill Barr’s decision to quit from Jonathan Swan.

It provides a dramatic account of how Barr denounced Trump’s conspiracy theories — all rooted in claims about the delayed counting of mail-in ballots that Barr had stoked for months.

The president’s theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were “bullshit.”

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and a few other aides in the room were shocked Barr had come out and said it — although they knew it was true.

It describes Barr’s frustration with Trump’s demands about the Durham investigation without mentioning that Barr repeatedly fed those expectations.

He was sick of Trump making public statements and having others do so to whip up pressure against U.S. Attorney John Durham to bring more prosecutions or to put out a report on the Russia investigation before the election.

It also allows Barr to call Rudy and Sidney “clownish,” without mentioning that those very same clowns had gotten Barr to squander the credibility of DOJ on similarly outlandish conspiracy theories, including but not limited to the Mike Flynn prosecution.

For good measure, the attorney general threw in a warning that the new legal team Trump was betting his future on was “clownish.”


The president had become too manic for even his most loyal allies, listening increasingly to the conspiracy theorists who echoed his own views and offered an illusion, an alternate reality.


But Barr’s respite ended after Election Day, as Trump teamed up with an array of conspiracy theorists to amplify preposterous theories of election interference, arguing that Biden and the Chinese Communist Party, among others, had stolen the election from him.

It presents the conflict over using the military to quell summer protests, without mentioning Barr’s own role in militarizing the response (to say nothing of treating BLM more harshly than right wing terrorists).

By the late summer of 2020, Trump and Barr were regularly skirmishing over how to handle the rising Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody. As the national movement unfurled, some protests had given way to violence and looting. Trump wanted the U.S. government to crack down hard on the unrest.

The president wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act and send the military into U.S. cities. He wanted troops in the street.


Besides, Barr asked, what was the endgame for adding the military to the mix? Federal forces could end up stranded in a city like Portland indefinitely.

Trump grew more and more frustrated, but Barr pushed back harder, standing his ground in front of everyone in the room. He was ready, willing and able to be strong, he said. But, he added, we also have to be thoughtful.

In short, this dramatic profile presents a fictional character, wise old Attorney General Bill Barr, who stood up against the President’s worst instincts, wisely resisting the urge to politicize investigations, trump up claims of voter fraud, chase the theories of Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, and back a violent crackdown against Trump’s opponents.

Except that profile is entirely fictional. That Bill Barr is a myth carefully crafted with the help of obliging reporters.

The reality is that over two years of not just tolerating these efforts, but usually taking affirmative steps to foster them, Billy Barr helped to create this monster, even though he was one of the people with the obligation to stop it.

With his corruption as Attorney General Bill Barr fostered this monster. He should get no credit for skipping out before the predictable outcomes of his own actions blew up on January 6.

47 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    As Garland and his team take office, they will have to do a lot of taking stock, to see where things stand at DOJ. What emerges from that will not be pretty.

    And any decent reporter that ran with Barr’s self-serving BS will be embarrassed to discover how gullible they were.

    • Anni says:

      Bill Barr lied about stopping all movement in the federal prison system. 98 % of all compassionate releases were denied

  2. Teddy says:

    Crafting his image certainly ranks high on Barr’s skill set: recall how he was lauded as a solon when first nominated by Trump to be AG. Very little mention of his key role in drafting the Iran/Contra pardons for First Bush. It was as if 45 had finally capitulated to demands from Establishment GOPs to have one of their own in the Cabinet, with only wonderment and admiration for Barr’s essay-length job application. Even the ACLU was far from full-throated in its “attention must be paid” editorial about the Senate’s role in confirming Barr (which they did 54-45 anyway):

    “The Senate needs to probe Barr on his views of obstruction of justice and how he might interpret the federal obstruction law if he knew more about the facts. In particular, the public needs to know under what circumstances Barr would halt Mueller’s obstruction investigation. Even if Barr was acting as a well-intentioned former public servant, and not as a suppliant for a client, it is essential to scrutinize how his positions on the presidency could affect the ongoing investigation into possible malfeasance by this particular president.”

    In ways that few other Trumpies have shown any inclination or excellence (pace Ivanka/Maggie’s absurd entanglement) Barr knows how to engage with reporters, I believe, to burnish his legacy whilst appearing to submit to probing interrogation. These new journamilists never see the jolly old fellow coming.

      • timbo says:

        Afraid? Or just part of the general conspiracy in the air and now scrambling to distance himself with what appears to have now failed?

    • harpie says:

      This video is really good. Jayapal’s words to Barr were spoken at the hearing on July 28, 2020, but the footage of the Capitol Insurrection of January 6, 2021 is interspersed with footage of the earlier incidents. Barr’s body language speaks for itself. [lol]

      JAYAPAL You are aware of certain kinds of protesters, but in Michigan when protesters carry guns and Confederate flags and swastikas, and call for the Governor of Michigan to be beheaded and shot and lynched, somehow you’re not aware of that. Somehow, you didn’t know about it. So, you didn’t send Federal agents in to do to the President’s supporters what you did to the President’s protesters.

      So, the point I’m trying to make here, Mr. Barr, that I think is very important for the country to understand, is that there is a real discrepancy in how you react as the Attorney General, the top cop in this country.

      When White men with swastikas storm a government building with guns, there is no need for the President to “activate” you because they are getting the President’s personal agenda done. But when Black people, and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism, and the President’s very own lack of response to those critical issues, then you forcibly remove them with armed federal officers and pepper bombs because they are considered terrorists by the President.

      You take an aggressive approach to Black Lives Matter protests, but not to right-wing extremists threatening to lynch a Governor, if it’s for the President’s benefit. Did I get it right, Mr. Barr?

  3. OldTulsaDude says:

    They must be teaching shorthand in journalism school as an inordinate amount of stenographers are being turned out.

  4. Eureka says:

    Related item I meant to share from Friday: the roundly-propagandized MDPA Luzerne County ballots case is closed:

    Pa. election probe over discarded Luzerne County military ballots ends without charges

    Federal prosecutors in Harrisburg announced Friday they had found “insufficient evidence” of a crime in an election investigation that President Donald Trump and his allies had repeatedly touted as a sign of vote-rigging in Pennsylvania.

    The case, involving nine military ballots found discarded in a Luzerne County dumpster, was unusual from the start. Breaking with traditional Justice Department norms that prohibit discussing most ongoing investigations — especially ones that could influence elections — then-U.S. Attorney David J. Freed sent out a news release [note: there were two releases] confirming the probe after Trump alluded to the matter on a Fox News Radio segment in September.

    The president then repeatedly cited it during his first debate against Joe Biden to bolster his baseless claims that widespread fraud would cost him the election.

    In a since deleted tweet, a Trump campaign spokesperson pointed to the case, claiming: “Democrats are trying to steal the election.”

    In his announcement Friday, Freed’s successor, Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, said no criminal charges will be filed.

    “The matter is closed,” he said in a statement.

    (internal links removed)

    You’ll recall that a poorly-trained, ~two-day temp had discarded nine ballots in error (seven unsealed and known to be for Trump), and was immediately fired.

    After this case simmered down, Barr’s DOJ then announced that they would/could (continue to) break precedent and publicly discuss election fraud-related investigations while ongoing and before the election was concluded (or to that effect).

  5. jdub says:

    Barr spent months trumping up mail-in voter fraud:

    and described the left as enemies of the state:

    and was down with stop-the-steal until he did the calculations and realized it wouldn’t work. I submit it’s the mostly-white elite DC press corps that’s part of the problem and not the solution

  6. Rugger9 says:

    Bothsidesism is a feature of the courtier press where “access” is prized above truth or actual reporting. So, there appears to be a play by Barr to become the token conservative voice like Starr, Gingrich and Rove are trying to be. That would make Barr less likely to be held accountable by the courtier press.

    I’m sure some of those affected by Barr’s actions, policies and pronouncements (such as the protestors at the Bible photo op) would be able to go after Barr for violating protocols and interfering with their civil rights. Litigation can dig up all sorts of interesting details.

    OT but on the subject of GOP lying: I was listening to Ric Edelman’s financial show this weekend and a 75-year-old woman called in to ask for financial advice about whether she needed to move out of cash because the “Biden administration was going after seniors’ savings”. Edelman called it total BS, but the poor lady was firmly convinced that Biden was going to take her money and she needed to invest it somewhere the government couldn’t get at it. I’m sure whoever was telling her this also had some investments ready to go (like Doug Andrews’ LASER fund, I turn him off when I hear his voice) to skin her the other way.

    The asymmetric communication access issue has to be solved, perhaps by repealing the communications act signed by Bill Clinton to ensure conglomerates like Sinclair cannot buy up all of flyover country, for example.

  7. WilliamOckham says:

    The starting point that Axios picked for their story allows them to portray arguments over tactics as principled objections to the fraud. It doesn’t wash. Bill Barr, along with everyone who coordinated with Trump to promote the Big Lie, participated in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

    On January 6th, that conspiracy definitively morphed into seditious conspiracy. Barr bailed out to avoid being on the hook for that. I’ll leave it to the lawyers to sort out whether he successfully avoided legal culpability. There’s no doubt about his moral culpability.

    • klynn says:

      This is an important perspective about the story.

      The word Axios has an interesting meaning and history that would back your perspective.

  8. Rapier says:

    Barr like 80% of GOP partisans and probably 99% of those of the Christianist variety viewed Trump as just part of the process which will save The Nation. They were and are OK with almost anything which will keep that train on the tracks. Oh sure, there will be some pearl clutching when things go ‘too far’ but their eyes are on the final prize. Barr I don’t think has found his pearls yet and said anything for attribution about recent events. Perhaps they are lost in his ample jowls. Thus his seat at the table if things happen to go their way is still safe.

    • tinao says:

      Rapier, this is exactly why i think billy should be prosecuted for whatever they can get him on. This smug shit needs reputiated! Crap, i’m still a bad speller Mom. : -)

  9. Epicurus says:

    The country is trying to pull out of two pandemics. COVID caused one. The Barr virus caused the other. Trump caught both viruses. There is no herd immunity or a vaccine against the Barr virus, Barr’s legacy to the nation.

  10. PeterS says:

    I recall that Swan got way too much credit for his combative interview of Trump, as if good examples of aggressive interviewing aren’t easily found (e.g. Channel 4 News and BBC Newsnight in the UK). Swan didn’t get close to getting an answer to the key question of why the USA was doing so much worse than Germany with covid 19.

    • PeterS says:

      O/T but it’s scary to now recall that Swan was challenging Trump about only (sic) a thousand deaths a day.

  11. mass interest says:

    I noticed, over the past few days, that the Washington Post has not allowed comments on several articles. Just now, I read this at the end of an article about installing Ellis as NSA lead counsel:

    Comments are not available on this story.
    At The Washington Post, we value upholding civil dialogue around the news of the day. We are currently experiencing a high volume of comments and have temporarily reduced the number of stories with comments available in order to maintain our standard of discourse.

    Defensive posture much?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The logic and purpose seem flawed. But taking it at its word, the WaPo would find it easier to maintain its alleged “standard of discourse” if it were to fire Fred Hiatt, rather than limit commentary from hoi polloi.

      • graham firchlis says:

        Can’t speak to WaPo comments, but the SF Chronicle comment threads have become overwhelmed by Trumpian nutjobs, drowning out the usual reasoned commentary (with a scattering of leftish lunacy.) This happens even with articles having no political angle.

        The RW comment flood started right after Nov 4. A hundred or more comments will appear within minutes of an article’s posting, all of a type, delusional lies denigrating everyone on the Left while promoting Trump and his lies along with Q garbage.. Corrective comments draw another flood of lies, and the body of regular thoughtful commentors are now absent, the few still trying buried in a cesspool deluge.

        If this is what WaPo is struggling with, shutting down comments may be the only practical means of preventing the site from being used as a Trump/VRWC propaganda outlet.

        • vvv says:

          We have a local online news paper here in my South-Chi town (one I was suspended from in the summer for troll-fighting and never went back to as a commenter) where the comments seem about 90% pro-failed pres.

          The town is a conservative bastion in an otherwise large Dem county (Cook) with a trumpy mayor but the outsized RWNJ presence is no doubt due in part, IMO, to the lessened working hours from the pandemic, and the mutual reacharounds of the Rethuglicans. I use that appellation because the outright racism and implications of violence in those comments (which I tried to fight) has magnified since Nov. 3.

        • P J Evans says:

          SFGate (the free version of the Chron) has killed their comment access since the insurrection. (Many of the commenters, some longtime commenters, are trumpistas. They were RWNJs before, but are worse now, and some of the stuff that got through was obviously racist or misogynist.)

      • Valley girl says:

        I’ve never paid much attention to Fred Hiatt, so I went googling.
        Feb 25, 2020
        ~~~Last week, I criticized the Washington Post’s editorial board for irresponsible climate opinion writing. I thought the board suffered from cognitive dissonance, because it would often say climate change was a massive problem, while arguing the policies needed to solve climate change were unrealistic.

        I also argued that the Post editorial board suffered on climate in part because it was led by Fred Hiatt—a journalist with a history of allowing climate misinformation to be published in the name of spirited debate. For over 10 years, Hiatt has been criticized by progressives for publishing columns that contain verifiably false information about climate science. Hiatt has consistently defended his decision to do this, even though he believes climate change represents an existential crisis. In 2014, Hiatt told Media Matters that the debate over climate science is “healthy.” ~~~

  12. Alan Charbonneau says:

    The article is a fluff piece to be sure.

    As to this part:
    “The president’s theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were ‘bullshit.’”

    Barr probably DID say that. Of course Barr worked to help Trump, but while he was willing to help out by something easy like hiring Durham, something much harder would be forcing Durham to push out a report before Election Day. That would’ve involved inventing evidence. Barr wasn’t willing to go there since there was too much risk.

    Also, attempting to find evidence of election fraud when there was none would be way harder to accomplish than a pushing out something from report from Durham — it would’ve involved inventing evidence on a huge scale. This was insanity and Barr knew it.

    So Barr may have told Trump his claims were bullshit, but the story of Bill the Impeccable is nonsense. It’s so over the top, it sounds as if a Barr supporter had written it rather than a PR firm (a PR firm would’ve toned it down a bit).

  13. John L says:

    Trump and Barr employed fascist tactics by using law enforcement for political goals. You might check out Trump’s “Exec Order” meant for protecting federal buildings, monuments, etc., from violent mobs by imposing 10 year minimum sentence. The document itself is completely fascist in it’s wording.

    cut and paste the actual text:

    ………Many of the rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists who have carried out and supported these acts have explicitly identified themselves with ideologies — such as Marxism — that call for the destruction of the United States system of government.

    Anarchists and left-wing extremists have sought to advance a fringe ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust and have sought to impose that ideology on Americans through violence and mob intimidation…………….


    Nevermind that most of violence and all but one of killings came from the Right. Completely poison. Somehow Trump got away with it and not called out on it. I suppose my heartburn isn’t the result to protect Federal property, it’s just the false premise that it’s caused by the Left when reality is totally different. Projection so prevalent by the Right.

    Hopefully the 10 year minimums can be used to after those that attacked the federal building known as the US Capitol. Just as they’d charge a black kid with spray paint.

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