It Is Not News that Bill Barr Lied to Protect Kleptocracy

Let’s talk about what Bill Barr did in his second tenure as Attorney General.

Even before Jeff Sessions was fired, Barr decided — based on the false claims he saw on Fox News — that the allegations against Donald Trump were bullshit. He wrote up a memo suggesting that it was okay for the President to fire the FBI director to cover up his own crimes. And based on that audition, he was nominated and confirmed as Attorney General.

When the investigation into the aftermath of that firing shut down weeks after he was confirmed, Barr lied to downplay the degree to which the President had enthusiastically welcomed the help of a hostile country to get elected. Among the things his lies did was to hide that the investigation into whether Roger Stone conspired with Russia — with Trump’s full knowledge — remained ongoing, a detail that remains unreported everywhere but here. Barr also issued a prosecution declination for crimes still in progress, Trump’s ultimately successful effort to buy the silence of witnesses against him with pardons.

Barr poured whiskey to celebrate his old friend Robert Mueller’s frailty before Congress.

Then Barr turned to protecting Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Sean Hannity when a whistleblower objected that Trump was extorting Volodymyr Zelenskyy for help on his reelection campaign. He did so in a number of ways, including interfering in legally mandated congressional and election oversight. He also stripped the whistleblower complaint to ensure that investigative steps put into place to protect national security in the wake of 9/11 wouldn’t tie Trump’s extortion attempt to an ongoing investigation into Ukrainian efforts to exploit Rudy Giuliani’s corruption to protect (Russian-backed) Ukrainian corruption. Barr’s efforts to hide the national security impact of Russian-backed Ukrainian efforts to corrupt American democracy gave Republicans cover — cover that every single Republican save Justin Amash and Mitt Romey availed themselves of — to leave Trump in place even after he put his own personal welfare above national security.

Then Barr turned to undoing the work of the Russian investigation. After Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the case against Mike Flynn was sound and Michael Horowitz concluded that the Russian investigation was not a partisan witch hunt, Barr assigned multiple investigators — John Durham and Jeffrey Jensen — to create a new set of facts claiming it was. He intervened to minimize the punishment against Stone, in the process claiming that threats against a witness and a judge — involving the same militias that would go on to lead an attack on the Capitol on January 6 — were mere technicalities. In his attempt to shield Stone from punishment, Barr ensured that the then-ongoing investigation into Stone’s suspected conspiracy with Russia would go nowhere. Barr’s efforts to attack Emmet Sullivan for refusing to rubber stamp Barr’s corruption resulted in a death threat against the judge. Barr’s effort to invent excuses to dismiss the prosecution against Flynn included altering documents and permitting an FBI agent who had sent pro-Trump texts on his FBI device to make claims in an interview that conflicted with the agent’s own past actions.

Barr used COVID as an excuse to let Paul Manafort serve his sentence in his Alexandria condo until such time as Trump pardoned his former campaign manager for lying about the help from Russia he used to get elected.

Barr took several measures to protect Rudy Giuliani from any consequences for his repeated efforts to get help for Donald Trump from Russian-backed Ukrainians, including outright Agents like Andrii Derkach. He ensured that the existing SDNY investigation into Rudy could not incorporate Rudy’s later efforts to solicit Russian-backed Ukrainian help. He attempted to fire Geoffrey Berman. He set up a parallel process so that DOJ could review the fruits of Rudy’s influence peddling for potential use against Trump’s campaign opponent.

This is just a partial list of the false claims that Bill Barr mobilized as Attorney General to ensure that the United States remained saddled with a President who repeatedly welcomed — at times extorted — Russian-backed help to remain as President.

It is not news that Bill Barr corrupted DOJ and lied to protect kleptocracy — in its American form of Donald Trump, but also, by association, in Putin’s efforts to exploit American venality to corrupt democracy.

Nevertheless, multiple outlets have decided that now — during Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine — is a good time to invite Bill Barr onto TV or radio to tell further lies to spin his own role in protecting kleptocracy, Russian and American. They appear to think they’re clever enough to catch a shameless liar in a lie — or perhaps believe the news value of having Barr explain that he’d prefer a competent fascist to Trump but if Trump is all he gets, he prefers that to actual democracy.

You cannot win an interview with Bill Barr. Gaslighters like Barr are too skilled at exploiting our attention economy. The mere act of inviting him on accords a man who did grave damage to the Department of Justice and the Constitution in service of kleptocracy as a respectable member of society. Even assuming you’re prepared enough to challenge his lies (thus far none of the journalists who interviewed Barr has been), he’ll claim your truth, the truth, is just partisanship designed to smear those who believe kleptocracy is moral. More likely, you’ll end up like Savanah Guthrie did, letting Barr claim, unchallenged, that the allegation that Russia conducted a concerted effort to compromise Trump is a lie.

Before Russia invaded a peaceful country, it attempted to achieve the same ends by cultivating Trump, by trading him electoral advantage for Ukrainian sovereignty. Bill Barr was a central part in letting that effort continue unchecked until January 20, 2021.

If you invite him on to do anything other than apologize to Ukraine and the United States, you are part of the problem.

62 replies
  1. Yogarhythms says:

    Truth telling about BBarr kleptocracy tour klieg lights our “attention economy” and journo’s addiction with access. Thankfully your written interventions are seismic muons penetrating all containers exposing authoritarian’s lies.

  2. Eureka says:

    Powerful clarity that flows from writing the truth.

    While some of those truths seem self-evident, many saw light in the first place through your diligent work.

    Thank you, and to those others who keep on keeping on.

  3. Peterr says:

    “Then Barr turned . . . Then Barr turned . . .”

    Slowly he turned. . .
    Step by step. . .
    Inch by inch. . .

    Barr’s work to bury Iran-Contra was but a dress rehearsal for his work to bury all this. I’m sure he will be looking to be booked for The Sunday Shows, and I hope the hosts read this post.

    I also hope to get a pony.

    • Hika says:

      If your wishing for a pony, you may as well go all-in and wish for a unicorn that farts rainbows.

    • Theodora30 says:

      Thanks for bringing up Barr’s strong support for pardoning all of Bush I’s Iran Contra co-conspirators. I think that was more than enough for Trump’s people to turn to him. Too bad the media has chosen to bury the story to protect the reputation of Bush — the guy who has repeatedly lied to the American public, claiming to have been out of the loop on Iran Contra and who had kept his personal diary — which detailed all those meetings he supposedly hadn’t attended — from investigators. From what I have read the Iran Contra Independent Counsel, Republican Lawrence Walsh, was planning to use that diary as evidence at Caspar Weinberger’s trial so those pardons kept Bush himself out of possible legal jeopardy. It also kept the details of his Iran Contra involvement from getting a lot of media attention so that Bush could continue his charade as a man of high principles. Walsh was so outraged by those pardons that he publicly accused Bush of “completing the coverup”.

  4. harpie says:

    wow.. this is quite a catalogue of despicable actions. I’m trying to get a handle on how the timing of them dovetails with the actions of others to produce the outcome we’re experiencing.

    And, I see MANAFORT’s old friend YANUKOVYCH is back in the news, too:
    3:32 AM · Mar 8, 2022

    Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, overthrown by revolutionaries in Kyiv in 2014, emerges from obscurity in Russia to urge Zelensky to “stop the bloodshed at all costs and reach a peace agreement.”

    It’s not Zelensky or Ukraine who’s causing the bloodshed, though… [screenshot]

    • Rayne says:

      LOL I guess we know who’s thrown their hat in the ring for Ukraine’s next puppet president if the current administration is “removed” by Putin.

    • VinnieGambone says:

      An enterprising news person could knock on Manafort’s door and ask him his view on the war in Ukraine.

      Or should I get in the line for that unicorn that farts rainbows Hika mentioned?

  5. klynn says:

    Thank you. Thank you for shining light into the darkness. I could not stomach his interviews. It has been extremely difficult to process his professed faith vs his actions and the latter enabling the killing of Ukrainian Catholics by a self consuming leader.

    It’s barbaric.

  6. RMD says:

    Media business model
    – author revises notes, crossing out problematic details, writes book
    – author’s agent contacts friendly media outlets
    – show producer contacts ‘new author about book’
    – Agent and producer negotiate terms (not talking about X, Y or Z)
    – author proceeds with book promo tour
    – presents well rehearsed script
    – fronts a ‘serious’ demeanor while evading topics
    – cashes checks

  7. Alan K says:

    Ew is a powerful searchlight into the strategy and tactics of those who corrupt our democracy. This summary is astonishing and damning, and founded on deep research. Thank you.

  8. Tippi’s G says:

    Thank you emptywheel for being a clear, concise and prolific investigative reporter who fulfills my idealistic perception of such since my college days as a journalism student. By contrast, Savannah Guthrie and her ilk are highly paid entertainers who are frankly not very entertaining.

  9. BruceF says:

    Barr also offered a bargain to Michael Cohen to remain out of jail only if he gave up his First Amendment rights and agreed not to publish his book that was critical of Trump. Cohen refused and published his book later winning his freedom when a judge reversed the decision to place Cohen back in jail!

    • timbo says:

      Perhaps this is where Barr got the idea to write a book himself?

      “Hate the lying cheating guy…but I’d vote for him again!”

  10. Trevanion says:

    Well done.

    Someone may want to convert this into a bullet point list for further distribution. Seriously. I worry that using thoughtful sentences and paragraphs for this excellent delineation diminishes the chance of inspection by the gnat-brained Zucker-wannabes who think their outlets demonstrate savvy edginess by putting Barr on.

  11. Matt Corr says:

    A bit OT: I apologize if this is either obvious or too conspiracy minded but, a thought I started to have during Impeachment 1, but never completed, is that Trump’s getting dirt on Biden wasn’t the primary motivation in blackmailing Zelensky. Sure, it would have lent much credibility to have the current Ukrainian government supply the propaganda, instead of the defeated Russia-aligned folks, but there was always Plan B, Rudy. That would make the corruption of Zelensky the main goal. If Trump had succeeded, there would be no need for war.

    So, as much as I am inspired by Zelensky’s courage as he faces Putin’s invasion, I think his courage in resisting Trump was a more impressive act. Though I equally must praise the “whistle-blower” for their courage, as I’m sure it helped Zelensky find his, as he was being squeezed by a military aggressor on one side and his provider of defensive equipment on the other.

    Not sure this contributes to the conversation, but at least I feel like my thought is completed.

    • Rayne says:

      No, not conspiracy but a reasonable assumption that Trump’s quid pro quo had more than one aim. To corrupt the Ukrainian president who ran on anti-corruption would make excellent opposition campaign material let alone an excuse to insist on investigations into Zelenskyy. Corruption by the president to obtain weapons would also paint a legitimate target on Zelenskyy for Putin’s purposes (“Zelenskyy was so hostile to the Luhansk+Donetsk independence that he was willing to commit corrupt acts to obtain weapons to use against them…”).

    • emptywheel says:

      It may have been a more primary goal of whoever put the idea in Trump’s head to extort Zelenskyy.

    • Dave_MB says:

      They were expecting Yanukovich to win and had already cut a deal with him. Zelensky was an upstart with an unexpected victory. That’s why Rudy’s Keystone Kops act was so chaotic and unplanned.

      They didn’t need dirt on Biden, just for Zelensky to announce an investigation to find dirt on Biden.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Exactly. They all knew (although Rudy have lost track when he drank) there was no dirt truly damning enough: Hunter wasn’t running for office no matter how much they might have wished he would.

        It was the announcement by Zelenskyy (on Jeff Zucker’s always-helpful CNN, to Fareed Zakariah) that Trump wanted. (Investigating non-existent dirt belongs in the same catalogue of moral philosophy as “It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.”)

  12. Building Guy says:

    Truly Great summary!

    “Billy Barr is a gasbag” is not news. Nor is his Redemption Tour. Actually, it’s pretty much standard fare for the radical religious zealotry we get from Coach Leo and his “Federalist Society” fascist judicial clerics.

    Our home grown Taliban has been pumping the airways with blatant nonsense for most of our li(e)ves. Let us not forget McGann and a plurality of the current SCOTUS reactionary wing. John Eastman is not some outlier, but led a significant FS “study group“. Too often it succeeds because we have the short term memory of goldfish, but occasionally there is some gratifying institutional reflex. Remember their indignant outrage that Robert Bork’s traitorous acts following Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre were not rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court?

    If you believe in the power of prayer, genuflect. Perhaps he’ll achieve the same accolades as other luminaries in the GOP pantheon as Kenny Boy Starr, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, along with Rudy’s hair, Joe DiGenova, Schoen, Castor, and other brilliant legal minds. Pardon me while I barf….

    • xy xy says:

      Speaking of Castor, I don’t understand how the clown gets hired for such cases, e.g.:
      *represents American Federation of Government Employees locals that seek to prohibit the U.S. government from enforcing an executive order requiring that federal employees be vaccinated. “A federal lawsuit filed by Bruce Castor argues that vaccine status is protected free speech and nobody’s business”
      *The family of an 8-year-old girl who was fatally shot by police officers outside a suburban Philadelphia high school football game in August filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging the officers willfully and maliciously caused her death and injured her sister.

  13. John B. says:

    Perfect summary. It also fills me with rage against TFG, BBarr and our awful media entertainment complex.

  14. jhinx says:

    Perhaps I’m having a senior moment, but this confuses me:

    Before Russia invaded a peaceful country, it attempted to achieve the same ends by cultivating Trump, by trading him electoral advantage for Ukrainian sovereignty.

    Reportedly, Trump didn’t give a damn about Ukraine, so why would he care about her sovereignty?

    Or does this mean Putin would destroy Ukrainian sovereignty through non-military means?

    • Rayne says:

      The latter. Trump wanted to win, Putin wanted Ukraine’s subordinate to Russia, thus the trade.

    • harpie says:

      I think Marcy is [at least partially] referring to:

      January 26, 2022

      Last weekend, the UK formally released an intelligence assessment that part of Russia’s plans in Ukraine involve a plot to replace Volodymyr Zelenskyy with a pro-Kremlin functionary. […]

      When Manafort traded campaign strategy to Russia for relief from his debt to Oleg Deripaska on August 2, 2016, his cooperation in a series of similar efforts to install a Russian functionary to head Ukraine was part of the deal. Citing numerous documents obtained from Manafort’s devices, Mueller made public Manafort’s participation in the effort through the time he went to jail in 2018. […]

        • Rayne says:

          Just realized Yanukovych’s statement has another layer or meaning to it — my bad I didn’t recognize the “don’t make me beat you again” argument. Russian forces are more or less holding 300K Ukrainians hostage in Mariupol right now and not allowing any aid or extractions because they’re bombing the humanitarian corridor which was supposed be left open.

          Yanukovych’s comment is a demand for ransom before more Ukrainians die in Mariupol.

      • Rayne says:

        Have to wonder how many different trade attempts there have been we don’t know about yet. All of Rudy’s trips to Ukraine weren’t just about his security firm, as one example.

  15. BobCon says:

    And to be clear, they don’t have to run interviews. The format hasn’t changed in 60+ years, along with the shouting pundit panel and the guy with a mic in front of a building. And the static form of TV (and radio) news is a big reason why ratings have spiralled down and viewer demographics have gotten worse and worse.

    News producers refuse to understand issues, in part because that might lead to pressure to change the rote use of forms that haven’t changed in decades. But the solution isn’t to spend hours negotiating ground rules and tweaking interview questions for gaslighters. It’s to spend that time thinking about how to cover them in an enlightening way.

      • harpie says:

        Thank you for posting this.
        I CANNOT believe Vindman and Fiona Hill seem not to be being consulted.
        It’s mind boggling and depressing to me.

        • timbo says:

          It’s possible that they are witnesses in an ongoing intelligence and/or DOJ investigation(s)? It might also be conceivable that they may be party to lawsuits against the former President and some of his subordinates. And, thirdly, I should imagine that they’re points of view are already well represented within the administration as it is, so not necessarily necessary to read them in to the actual current intelligence, etc.

  16. Stephen Calhoun says:

    Thanks for the summary about a very bad man.

    Barr is despicable and is so over many many years. Alas, (IANAL,) in the partial compendium I note wrong doing. I have to wonder: did Barr break the law during his Trump ‘chapter?’ If so, is it chargeable and could it be proved beyond a reasonable doubt?

    If the answer is “yes/yes,” who is going to hold Barr accountable?

  17. Eileen MacDougall says:

    Thank you for this. I heard NPR trying to ask “gotcha” questions to this traitorous turd most ineffectively. What a waste and a travesty.

      • Sonso says:

        I know we get into this ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ thing about being a traitor, but as an adjective, might it be more poetic than legal? What would the appropriate word be? (Presumably not ‘treasonous’).

  18. Randy Baker says:

    Nicely done. One thing Barr says, don’t know if in the interview, which I believe to be true is that he didn’t act out of loyalty to Trump. I think Barr is a royalist, and protected Trump in order to protect the divine right of kings — a position Trump happened to occupy, and a position which happened to advantage Trump at the time.

    • timbo says:

      Clearly, Barr has other long term allies in DC…I mean, that’s likely why he was brought back out of mothball… to help the GOP glide through another set of scandals that threatened to upset all the tax breaks feeding huge corporate profits.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Brilliant summary (as usual) and necessary skewering of the media that continue to prefer Republicans to a working democracy, like their honored guest, Bill Barr.

  20. tryggth says:

    “Because I believe that the greatest threat to the country is the progressive agenda being pushed by the Democratic Party, it’s inconceivable to me that I wouldn’t vote for the Republican nominee.”

    “Holy shit” moment for sure.

  21. Desider says:

    Barr resigned 23 Dec 2020. He owns everything up to that point, and arguably the next 2 weeks. I mean, how much Sgt Schultz intentional “i see nuttink” can be invoked while Trump & cronies are in full insurrection planning mode, with multiple meetings daily? It’s kind of like an extension of the Mike Flynn rule – the highest National Security officer is blameless, the highest judicial enforcement officer is blameless… because why exactly? No obligation to do their jobs, regardless of whatever other misdirection? I mean, whatever other lies Barr tells, sheer fucking incompetence reigns supreme, short of much more malicious intentional action. It’s like the James Bond/Ian Fleming thing – once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action. 15 times is way beyond the Pale.

  22. Jenny T says:

    Nice summary of the many examples of Barr’s partisan driven BS on Election/Natl security. And to think that list doesn’t even go into all the domestic bs related to trashing Blue cities supposedly over-run by scary, boogeyman, “Antifa”.
    Interesting that antifa (which was always sort of a unicorn) has magically disappeared from the scene
    Barr is/was a disgrace and should not be given the time of day, other than an example of an unfit US Attorney General

  23. Savage Librarian says:

    Barr Code: Et (Article)Tu

    Bumptious Bill, the bilious shill,
    failed to stop Fiona Hill.
    She had the gall and twice the will
    of a cad who peeped by a windowsill.

    In a grill that would make some ill,
    she nailed the Bolt on. What a thrill.
    It propelled the truth they tried to kill,
    Some said “Cool” and others, “Chill.”

    The cad divulged he’d be damned
    to follow laws and be programmed.
    He wasn’t here to be all jammed
    up a House that some “yes-ma’am”ed.

    He took his fist and with it slammed
    the TV news that double-whammed
    the propaganda he flimflammed.
    Sharpies showed it, diagrammed.

    Maybe we’ll move beyond our tears
    in hopes that news, where it appears,
    is beyond a brand for a house of mirrors
    and not a home for narcissistic careers.

    The Sondland of music to our ears,
    canary in a coal mine notes our fears.
    If ever Zelenskyy’s fog of war clears,
    let’s try to expel our own King Lears.


    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      SL, how great to see this one! You’re gonna make me revert to saying the word “mirrors” like “meers” again–and in a region where I’ve heard “mirrahs”! Words are fun, especially when someone like you is playing with them. As always, thanks!

  24. jdmckay says:

    After many years reading Marcy almost daily, this maybe the most painful and persuasive post I have read here. Almost mind boggling in width and breadth of the corruption.

    Driving home I listened to a few minutes of Hannity. He and Rick Perry were agreeing with each other as though given fact, that Biden’s policies responsible for Ukraine invasion, same for rising gas prices and inflation, and of course wasn’t Trump a genius for all that domestic water table destruction…. err (oops) domestic energy production. And of course, the “left’s genuflecting at the climate altar” and utter uselessness of solar/wind only further means we need Trump NOW!

    Thx again.

  25. Tom says:

    Bill Barr may enjoy a brief methane gas flare of positive press from his current book launch, but he is pissing into the wind. He has left a slime trail in the contemporary record for scholars to follow, and historians will put his bloated carcass on the dissecting table of research and anatomize his iniquities as Dr. Wheeler has outlined above.

    You can judge a person by the company they keep, and by stating he’d vote for Donald Trump again in 2024 Bill Barr has effectively ranged himself alongside the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Louis Gohmert, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Lindell, and the rest of those gibbering Bedlamites. In the long view of history, Barr’s Federalist Society credentials won’t count for much, and despite his ponderous pontificating about being a conservative—conservative with the truth, he must mean—I’m pretty sure his reputation will always carry a sleazy mob lawyer taint about it, and in popular opinion Barr will be remembered as just another one of Trump’s malignant gang of felons and fart-catchers.

  26. Marinela says:

    A lot of these interviews remind me of Megan McCain performances when she was on the View.
    Regardless of the issues discussed, she would always pivot to GOP talking points, what about this and that.

    Barr is really good at advancing GOP narratives, so when you book an interview with him, it means you are going to give platform to a political hack. Barr still caries water for GOP, even now with his book tour.

    Didn’t see him giving interview to The Beat, Ari Melber. The damage he does advancing GOP talking points, is greater than catching him in a lie which is not news worthy.

  27. Sneakerface says:

    Perhaps there is a much straighter line than we thought between Zelenskyy’s refusal to say he was investigating Biden – and Zelenskyy’s country being invaded – than we thought . Putin wanted his puppet Trump to be elected, and Zelenskyy didn’t want to cooperate with that effort.

    • bmaz says:

      Is there a basis for that, or naw?

      And since this was your first comment here, welcome. But your entry was a tad shaky.

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