In public, most Republicans are nothing but supportive of President Donald Trump. But in private, they’re lobbying him to listen to Attorney General Bill Barr.
Republican leaders in Congress are concerned that Barr will resign if Trump doesn’t respect his wishes to stop blabbing about sensitive Department of Justice (DOJ) matters, the Washington Examiner reported Thursday. Tensions have been unusually high between Trump and his attorney general over the president’s recent public comments on Roger Stone’s criminal trial.
A warning for Trump
Democrats have villainized Barr since his rise to the office of attorney general, painting him as a henchman who puts Trump over the Constitution. But there have been tensions between Trump and his AG lately over the president’s comments on ongoing DOJ cases, and the “henchman” is signaling that he’s had enough.
After the DOJ intervened to lighten Stone’s punishment for obstruction crimes last week, Democrats ramped up familiar claims that Barr was helping Trump subvert the rule of law for the president’s personal benefit — forcing Barr to explain that the DOJ reached its decision to curtail Stone’s punishment before Trump started tweeting. In character for the independently minded Barr — but not in keeping with the narrative that Barr is just a lackey — Barr later told ABC New that Trump’s constant commentary is making it “impossible” for him to do his job.
“He’s very frustrated,” a senior Republican Senate aide subsequently told the Washington Examiner. “That was not made for TV.”
“A man of the highest character”
Trump has ignored Barr’s wishes and maintained that he has the “legal right” to intervene in DOJ cases. But some Republicans are worried that if Barr resigns in frustration, Trump won’t be able to find someone as loyal or experienced to replace him — and according to the Examiner, they’ve lobbied on Barr’s behalf, in public and in private.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) lightly rebuked Trump and urged him to listen to Barr in a Fox News interview last week, and he issued a joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) defending the embattled attorney general as “a man of the highest character and unquestionable integrity.”
A line that can’t be crossed
But while he may be heralded by Republicans in Washington, Barr has suffered a lot for Trump. Democrats have viciously attacked the attorney general for supporting Trump’s claims that his campaign was spied on by President Barack Obama’s FBI and for his department’s ongoing criminal investigation of the origins of the Trump–Russia probe.
With just nine months to go before the election, some Republicans are worried about what will happen with those investigations if Barr leaves.
Still, the DOJ has dismissed rumors that Barr is planning to resign. In the meantime, Barr will join Senate Republicans at their weekly lunch on Tuesday to discuss a provision of the Patriot Act that is slated to sunset, according to Politico. The AG was invited weeks ago, but it seems likely that his tensions with Trump will come up.
A brilliant legal mind and a cool head, Barr has shown a remarkable ability to withstand the left’s constant smears, but even he has a limit. Trump would be wise not to cross it.