Donald Trump has managed to get William Barr confirmed as his new Attorney General. Trump, obviously, thinks this is a win when it comes to getting himself off the legal hook in his endless criminal scandals. But when you look at what we know about Barr, and how these things have tended to play out for Trump, a very different picture emerges.
The remarkable thing about William Barr is that he’s taking over for a guy, Matt Whitaker, who just found out last night that he’s been earmarked for prison for felony perjury. Imagine being Barr right now, learning on Day One of your new job that the last guy your boss hired for this position got criminally busted for carrying out your boss’s corrupt instructions.
Barr’s antics in the media over the past couple years suggest that he may well be willing to commit crimes on Trump’s behalf. Yet Barr’s past life in politics, and his recent confirmation hearings, suggest that he’s not stupid enough to do the kinds of corrupt things for Trump that’ll land him behind bars. When you’re replacing a guy who’s going to prison for having done the job corruptly, that’s got to have a chilling effect on your own behavior on the job, if you have even a few brain cells to rub together.
And really, that’s the trouble if you’re Donald Trump. You can rely on idiots who are eager to do your corrupt bidding at their own peril, but because they’re idiots, they’ll get caught and blow it for you. Or you can rely on people who are smart enough to see that everyone who does your corrupt bidding goes to prison, and you can’t count on them to do your corrupt bidding once you’ve hired them.
We don’t know what we’re about to get out of William Barr. But the last two times Donald Trump hired a corrupt Attorney General, he ended up with a smart criminal like Jeff Sessions, who recused himself in order to save himself instead of helping Trump, and then a dumb criminal like Matt Whitaker, who harmed Trump by trying to help him. If Barr turns out to be anything like either one of Trump’s last two guys, he’s bad news for Trump.
There’s even worse news in all this for Donald Trump. Robert Mueller is basically at the finish line when it comes to his big endgame against Trump. The investigative work has been done. The criminal cases against Trump and his family are there. The only thing Barr can even try to do at this late date is to block Mueller’s report from becoming public, which wouldn’t be realistically possible even if Barr were to try it.
If Trump had tried this stunt a year ago and found his man in William Barr, maybe they could have cooked up something to stop Robert Mueller. But Trump always waits until far too late to make his move. At this point there’s just nothing for Barr to do when it comes to saving Trump. Sure, some pundits will try to scare you into thinking that Barr has a magic wand up his sleeve. But those are the same pundits who insisted Matt Whitaker had a magic wand up his sleeve as well.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report