OOn Monday, Donald Trump announced William Barr’s departure to justice. Finally, the president had managed to impose his will on anyone, whoever, after weeks of repeated failures. On the same day that marked the 300,000th American death of Covid-19 and the election college affirmed Joe Biden’s victory, Trump had once again expelled his attorney general from office. Jeff Sessions is no longer a club of one.
Still, Barr won’t be there either if and when the president pardons his last round, a likely relief for the president’s legal spearman, but also a cause for Trump to worry: Barr knows a thing or two about pardon from the eleventh hour. Mike Flynn is only the last.
As Attorney General to George HW Bush, Barr has successfully urged the late president to grant a pardon in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal and Bush’s 1992 loss to Bill Clinton. Indeed, according to Barr’s account, he was a driving force nearly three decades ago, putting pressure on the Justice Department’s “naysayers”.
In particular, Barr fought for the pardon of Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense who was charged, and five others, including Elliot Abrams. In time, Abrams would join the George W Bush administration, eventually serving as Trump’s special representative for Iran and then Venezuela.
In an interview in 2001, law-and-order Barr put things this way: “The big ones were clearly Iran’s Contra. I certainly did not oppose any of them. I preferred the widest. “
As for limiting Bush’s pardon to only Weinberger dealing with perjury, Barr had none of that. He explained, “There were a few people arguing just for Weinberger, and I said, ‘No, for a penny, for a pound.’ ”
At the time, Abrams had already pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress, but Barr had none of that. Barr rather “felt” that Abrams had “been treated very unjustly.” As expected, Lawrence Walsh, then independent counsel, saw things differently, saying, “The Iran-Contra cover-up … is now complete.”
Years later, Barr would distort the findings of the Mueller report and provoke the anger of Mueller, his former friend, and Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush-appointed member of the federal bank. In a 23-page opinion, Walton “seriously” questioned whether Barr “was making a deliberate effort to influence public discourse on the Mueller report in favor of President Trump, despite certain findings in the edited version of the Mueller report that claim the contrary “.
Of course, that wasn’t the last time Barr would draw fire from the court. In the wake of the Justice Department’s haunted attempts to drop the government’s case against Flynn and Trump’s pardon, another federal judge, Emmet Sullivan, hammered on Barr’s leadership. Like Walton, Sullivan was saddened by the administration’s ability to calm Trump.
Even when he dismissed the charges against Flynn, Sullivan opined, “Given the government’s previous argument in this case that Mr. Flynn’s false statements were ‘absolutely material’ because his false statements were ‘at the heart’ of the FBI’s investigation. outright, without explanation, raises concerns about the regularity of the decision-making process. “
While Barr is leaving Main Justice, he has extracted the prize for his hasty retirement. Against the backdrop of Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud and theft, Barr poked his boss in the eye. His letter of resignation stated that “it is obligatory at all levels of government and all agencies within their remit to do everything we can to ensure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in its outcome.”
Without Barr by his side, Trump now faces a long list of supplicants. In addition to pondering self-forgiveness, Trump also confronts the issue of pardoning Javanka, two of his sons, Rudy Giuliani and Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General who is under an active FBI investigation. Again, Barr’s words can come back to haunt the president.
At his 2019 confirmation hearing, Barr testified that the president had the power to pardon family members, but he could also face prosecution if the pardon was related to a broader effort to obstruct justice. Barr explained that while the president “has the power to pardon a family member,” it could be obstruction if it “relates to an act that violates an obstruction statute.”
On January 20, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., Trump loses his immunity and becomes fair game for prosecutors. Already, Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, is circling Trump and his company eagerly. As for the Southern District of New York, they’ve already called Trump an uncharged co-conspirator.
What comes next remains.