William Barr flinched for a nanosecond, then plunged into the murky waters of the deep state. There was ‘spying,’ he ventured, in 2016 – against the Trump campaign. There was no ‘specific evidence,’ but he’s persuaded it happened.
In that moment before the Senate, Barr betrothed himself to Donald Trump. Only moments earlier Trump had gone on a prolonged tirade about the malefactions of ‘dirty cops’ who had engaged in ‘treasonous’ activities against him and his aides. Trump, you could say, is on a roll these days.
His chum Benjamin Netanyahu just won re-election, partly thanks to a series of boosts from Trump. He may be heading towards a trade deal with China. And Barr is likely proving far more indulgent than he ever dreamed he would be. Barr indicates that he is gunning up an investigation to investigate the original officials who were probing Trump and his ties to Moscow. Nothing could suit Trump, who wants to start his own witch-hunt, better. Trump was practically foaming with indignation today as he depicted himself as a Little Bo-Peep who had been bludgeoned by Barack Obama’s goons running wild in what amounted to an Injustice Department. As Sam Tanenhaus pointed out to me recently, the modern conservative movement — forged by William F. Buckley Jr. — has relied on the tu quoque argument. Anything they’re accused of is simply liberal hypocrisy. Trump has distilled this to its essence. He’s creating a counter-conspiracy that depicts him as the victim of liberal traitors.
The weirdest part of this counter-conspiracy theory is that it rests on the supposition that former FBI head James Comey was out to get Trump. When, in fact, this vainglorious fellow administered the kibosh to Hillary Clinton by denouncing her use of a private email server. Now Comey prances around fretting about Trump whom helped boost into the Oval Office.
None of this will deter Trump or Barr. Quite the contrary. As Paul Waldman notes in the Washington Post, Trump used to complain about Jeff Sessions, ‘I don’t have an attorney general.’ Now he does. But Barr’s behavior is merely apt to raise even more questions about his handling of the Mueller report. He has become Trump’s willing enabler. It is Sessions who increasingly looks like a model of probity by comparison with his loutish successor.