For months, Palmer Report has been pointing out that whenever a newspaper runs a story sourced to “people familiar with Bill Barr’s thinking” or some other similar verbiage, that source is always Barr himself. It’s his way of trying to control the media narrative, and he’s been doing it for as long as he’s had the job. We’re not the only ones who have caught onto this, of course.
On Tuesday night, ABC News reported that according to people close to Bill Barr, he’s considering resigning because Donald Trump won’t stop meddling in his business. Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell discussed it during their 10pm handoff on MSNBC, and they were both trying to suppress laughter at how absurdly thinly disguised the sourcing was. We all know this story came from Barr himself, because he wants the narrative out there that he’s considering resigning. Spoiler alert: he’s not about to resign. So what’s he doing?
Barr keeps blowing it in various ways, from having to admit he never had a case against Andrew McCabe, to failing to bully the Roger Stone judge into granting a new trial. But Barr is still the most effective (or least ineffective) henchman Donald Trump has in his stable. Trump needs Barr and he knows it. Yet Trump is also clinically compelled by his narcissism to outdo Barr, to take credit for what Barr is doing, and so on. This makes it harder for Barr to pull off his corrupt antics, which largely rely on not making much noise and thus not drawing much outrage. Barr appears to believe that Trump’s meddling is why he keeps striking out.
So why is Bill Barr threatening to quit by leaking that he’s considering quitting? One word: leverage. Barr believes that by threatening to simply walk away, he can snap Trump into realizing that he’s got to knock off the meddling tweets. After all, if Barr quits, Trump’s teetering presidency probably collapses. So Barr is using this leverage to try to force Trump to pull it together.
The thing is, Donald Trump has leverage of his own over Bill Barr. Barr has committed so many felony obstruction of justice antics while on the job, it’s nearly a given that the DOJ will make an example out of him as soon as it possibly can. If Barr were to resign today, the DOJ would probably try to go after him tomorrow, and would certainly take him down if Trump loses the election. Barr needs a pardon of his own before he can walk away, and Trump knows it. So as these two con artists play a game of chicken with each other, we’ll see if one or both of them loses.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report