In times like this, vigilance is your friend, but fatalism is your enemy. If you go into battle thinking you’re going to lose – or worse, trying to convince your comrades that your side is going to lose – then your odds of losing that battle will go way up. It’s a lot harder to find a way to win when you’re saddled with the belief that the other side is going to win no matter what you do.
This brings us to Attorney General Bill Barr. Because he pulled off one initial victory against Robert Mueller, at a time when (let’s be honest here) Mueller appeared to be in the early stages of cognitive decline, the fatalists have since cast Barr as some kind of evil wizard with limitless powers. Barr can just wave his magic wand and make anything happen. The thing is, though, that’s all just fantasy land – and we keep seeing evidence that the precise opposite is true.
Back in the real world, Bill Barr is a guy who committed several counts of felony obstruction of justice while fending off Mueller. If Trump loses in November, and doesn’t pardon Barr on his way out the door, Barr will go to prison for much or all of the rest of his life. Put another way: just try to imagine the DOJ not deciding to make an example out of Barr once he’s been ousted. So in reality, Barr is a desperate man who’s trying to find a way to coax a fickle Trump into keeping his pardon on track.
This context helps us to more accurately understand why Bill Barr did something as pointless and ineffective today as forcing prosecutors to retroactively lower their sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. Judge Jackson is going to give Stone whatever sentence she wants to give him, and Barr’s antics won’t reduce that sentence by even a day. In fact Barr’s antics are giving the Democrats something new to campaign on in 2020. Barr is just hoping that Trump is naive or addled enough to think that his move to “help” Stone is something real, when it fact it’s just sleight of hand.
The thing no one wants to admit is that Barr has no magical powers of any kind. In fact Barr has failed at almost everything he’s tried since his initial Mueller victory (DOJ Inspector General report, silencing Lev Parnas, etc). Barr knows he’s in way over his head, he knows he’s on track for prison, and he’s desperately trying to figure out how to avoid that fate.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report