President Trump ruined the life of his first attorney general and now has begun to do the same to his successor, according to a story Wednesday in the Washington Post.
“’Enjoy your life’: Trump puts new attorney general in an awkward position from the start,” read the headline on a story by White House correspondents Philip Rucker and Matt Zapotosky.
The story begins with a vignette from Trump’s press conference on border security Friday, when he recognized new Attorney General William Barr on his first day of office.
“’I want to wish our attorney general great luck and speed, and enjoy your life, Bill. Good luck,’” Trump said.
Trump’s remarks were “drawing light laughter from others in attendance, who surely remembered the many ways the president tormented Barr’s successor, Jeff Sessions.”
“In the days that followed [the press conference}, Trump sent more than a dozen messages to his 58 million Twitter followers reviving his critiques of the Justice Department, which Barr now helms, or the officials who came before him,” Rucker and Zapotosky wrote.
“The president called the Russia investigation a ‘witch hunt’ that is ‘totally conflicted, illegal and rigged!.’ He assailed former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe as ‘disgraced.’ And he said McCabe’s claim that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein broached the idea of using the 25th Amendment to oust Trump amounted to treason – while quoting a Fox News Channel pundit describing it as a ‘coup’ attempt.”
The Post then admitted none of this “animosity” was “aimed at Barr – in fact, he has praised him — ” but it “nonetheless puts the attorney general in a particularly awkward position as he begins his job.”
This is hard on Barr who, according to “people who know him,” is “laboring to maintain his reputation as a relatively independent and principled leader while simultaneously reacting to pressure from his boss, who demands loyalty from his appointees and nominees and frequently disparages the Justice Department as it investigates his campaign and conduct.”
Barr has not addressed Trump’s comments on the Justice Department, but he did point out the department “’has faced ever-increasing scrutiny from all quarters as news cycles have shrunk from days, to hours, to nanoseconds.”
Barr served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush and appears to be “a lawyer’s lawyer,” as the writers described him.
The Post stated, without evidence, that Barr’s confirmation has buoyed spirits, which had sunk after Trump asked Sessions to resign and replaced him with Matthew G. Whitaker, whose qualifications to be acting attorney general were doubted by some in the building.”
It does not mention that Whitaker was Sessions’ top aide and a logical choice to replace him as acting attorney general.
The Post then quoted former U.S. Attorney General Joyce Vance, who served in the Obama administration, as saying Barr “will be tested early on.”
“Barr, if he wants to be the people’s lawyer and not the president’s lawyer, is going to have to walk the high ground, not just in his private dealings inside of the Justice Department, but publicly,” Vance said. “He’s going to have to set a clear example that when it comes to individual criminal investigations, he’s independent from the White House, and that’s not what this president wants from an attorney general.”
No such scrutiny was applied by decisions of Attorney General Loretta Lynch to allow FBI Director James Comey to decline to prosecute Hillary Clinton over her missing emails and conflicting explanations, nor of why Trump officials were “unmasked” by Obama’s U.N. representative and others, nor how and why the FISA warrants for Carter Page were issued and reissued.