The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
ABC News' Jonathan Karl has an interesting story in The Atlantic reporting on Attorney General William Barr's decision to reject President Trump's election fraud claims. The story is based upon interviews with Barr himself, among others. As a result, it gives a window into Barr's perspective on his final months in the administration. (Whether that makes Barr a more or less sympathetic figure is left to the reader.)
According to the story, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been urging Barr to reject the claims that the 2020 election was stolen and affirm that Biden had won the election so that it would be easier for Republicans to argue that a Biden presidency required a Republican Senate as a counterweight. The story also highlights the precarious position Barr was in. Speaking the truth was necessary, yet openly contradicting the President risked getting fired and replaced by someone more accommodating.
Part of the story includes an account of Barr's confrontation with Trump after Barr told an Associated Press reporter: "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election." From Karl's story:
Barr, Levi, and Cipollone walked to the president's personal dining room near the Oval Office. Trump was sitting at the table. Meadows was sitting next to him with his arms crossed; the White House adviser Eric Herschmann stood off to the side. The details of this meeting were described to me by several people present. One told me that Trump had "the eyes and mannerism of a madman."
He went off on Barr.
"I think you've noticed I haven't been talking to you much," Trump said to him. "I've been leaving you alone."
Barr later told others that the comment was reminiscent of a line in the movie Dr. Strangelove, in which the main character, Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, says, "I do not avoid women, Mandrake, but I do deny them my essence." Trump, Barr thought, was saying that he had been denying him his essence.
Trump brought up Barr's AP interview.
"Did you say that?"
"Yes," Barr responded.
"How the fuck could you do this to me? Why did you say it?"
"Because it's true."
The president, livid, responded by referring to himself in the third person: "You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump."
The whole story is worth a read.