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It is late in the day for former Attorney General Bill Barr to rehabilitate his reputation, but he apparently gave journalist Jonathan Swan an inside view of why he quit in December. He knew that Trump was lying about the election. He tried to convince him that all the claims of election fraud were B.S., but Trump got angry when Barr told him the truth. Of course, when Barr resigned, he wrote an obsequious letter about how great Trump was, which in itself robs him of any glory for repudiating Trump after the failed putsch.
Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president’s theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were “bullshit.”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone and a few other aides in the room were shocked Barr had come out and said it — although they knew it was true. For good measure, the attorney general threw in a warning that the new legal team Trump was betting his future on was “clownish.”
Trump had angrily dragged Barr in to explain himself after seeing a breaking AP story all over Twitter, with the headline: “Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud.” But Barr was not backing down. Three weeks later, he would be gone.
The relationship between the president and his attorney general was arguably the most consequential in Trump’s Cabinet. And in the six months leading up to this meeting, the relationship between the two men had quietly disintegrated. Nobody was more loyal than Bill Barr. But for Trump, it was never enough.
The president had become too manic for even his most loyal allies, listening increasingly to the conspiracy theorists who echoed his own views and offered an illusion, an alternate reality.
What follows is fascinating.
His inner circle knew he was lying. Barr had the audacity to say that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, certainly not enough to change the outcome of the election. But Trump became committed to his Big Lie. The lies about voter fraud were good enough to set off thousands of Trump’s most avid supporters, who gathered on January 6 to set siege to the U.S. Capitol and to threaten the lives of legislators, both Democrats and Republicans. We now know that the nation barely missed witnessing a massacre of our Congress, with a wild and bloodthirsty mob roaming unconstrained through the Capitol for hours. Did Barr know the plan? Is that why he quit?