The problem for Barr is that while he’s trying to state the obvious now, while he was in office he publicly raised concerns about the voter fraud he now says it’s clear it didn’t exist.
“Barr bears as much responsibility as anybody other than Trump himself for spreading the malicious lie that ultimately resulted in the January 6 Capitol insurrection,” Honig concludes.
Barr, despite what he says now, earned his reputation as Trump’s guardian and enabler.
BUT! Trump requires total loyalty and the line Barr would not cross — using the Justice Department to help Trump overturn the election results — drew Trump’s anger.
Barr resigned at the end of 2020 after angering Trump because he wouldn’t do more to enable Trump’s election lies.
Karl, in a book excerpt published by the Atlantic, writes about Trump, looking like a madman, banging on a table and referring to himself in the third person, laying into Barr after the attorney general finally said what was clear, on December 1, 2020, that there was no evidence of fraud.
The Barr described to Karl is not afraid to insult Trump to his face.
“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr told Trump, according to Karl. “This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy. Instead, you have a clown show. No self-respecting lawyer is going anywhere near it. It’s just a joke. That’s why you are where you are.”
Believe Barr or not, how to view Trump’s enablers is a complicated equation.
Barr would not follow Trump over the cliff to actually challenging the election. But he went right up to that line.
Another character that features in Karl’s report is Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, who Karl writes encouraged Barr, behind the scenes, to reject Trump’s election tantrum. Rather than speak out himself (he wouldn’t do that until January), McConnell wanted to harness Trump’s power to win Senate races in Georgia even thought he clearly knew the damage Trump was doing to the republic.
McConnell ultimately spoke out against Trump at his impeachment trial. Great! But then McConnell voted to acquit him when he was impeached for inciting a raid on the Senate McConnell treasures. And he mobilized Republicans to kill a bipartisan review of the insurrection in order to help their election prospects.
Her oscillation between defending Trump and seeming to criticize him exemplifies the difficulty of Republicans who have not mainlined Trumpism and conspiracy theory, like Sen. John Hawley, but have also not rejected it.
Republican politicians can’t just reject it since that’s the direction the party has taken, towards the “Big Lie” — not away from it. Barr may have known all along it was BS, but waiting so long to speak up helped the thing take hold.