Why Bill Barr may have 'gone too far' this time in trying to protect Trump
When President Donald Trump was expressing his frustration over former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in 2018, he famously remarked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” — a reference to his infamous far-right attorney who was an ally of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Trump later found an attorney general who, unlike Jeff Sessions, turned out to be the loyalist he was hoping for: Bill Barr.
Journalist Joan Walsh, in an article this week for The Nation, argues that Trump found his Roy Cohn in Barr. But she said that now Barr is becoming “sloppier” as he becomes “more brazen.”
"Barr’s decline into blatant but ineffectual lawlessness is proof that Trumpism is a degenerative disease," she said.
According to Walsh, Barr might have gone too far when he fired Geoffrey Berman from his position as a federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. Although Berman is a conservative Republican who supported Trump in 2016, the Southern District has not shied away from Trump-related investigations.
“Barr’s disastrous attempt at a Friday Night Massacre, firing Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, blew up in his face when Berman, a 2016 Trump supporter, refused to go along with the cover story that he had resigned,” Walsh explains. “That forced Barr to get Trump to fire Berman, which meant he couldn’t appoint a more pliant replacement. Berman will be succeeded by his deputy: long-time prosecutor Audrey Strauss, widely known for her independence.”
Walsh goes on to offer some possible reasons “why Barr and Trump wanted Berman out.”
“A former law partner of Rudy Giuliani, Berman seemed to run afoul of Team Trump starting with his prosecution of long-time Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, as well as his indictments of Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman on charges that they illegally donated more than $300,000 in foreign money to GOP campaigns,” Walsh notes. “His office was widely believed to be investigating Giuliani on related issues, particularly the trio’s attempts to coerce Ukrainian officials to provide ‘dirt’ on former vice president Joe Biden, Trump’s 2020 opponent.”
Walsh contends that “as Barr has gotten more brazen in his attempts to subvert the law” on Trump’s behalf, he has also “gotten sloppier” — and that in addition to the Berman debacle, that includes Barr’s “shocking interventions to reduce his department’s own sentencing request for Roger Stone, and to drop perjury charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — though Flynn admitted the crime. Both moves resulted in career attorneys resigning and widespread criticism from the legal establishment and the media.”
Walsh adds that Barr's role in the violent clearing of Lafayette Park ahead of Trump's shameless church photo-op likewise damaged his credibility. Trump's military leadership was much more circumspect about the scandalous and repugnant affair.
"Democrats must hold hearings in which they call Berman and other US Attorneys who’ve left the Department of Justice over Barr’s political meddling," she wrote. "And they must pledge to continue to investigate Trump, Barr, and other administration wrongdoers, and prosecute them if indicated, even after they’ve left office."