It’s not difficult to figure out what likely happened with Bill Barr. Around September or October, he must have figured out what anyone paying close attention knew: Donald Trump was so far behind, he had little or no remaining chance of winning reelection, even if he tried to rig it.
If there was nothing that Barr could do to help Trump win, then all Barr could do was put himself in the best position possible for after Trump lost. So Barr decided to simply go quiet, get off the stage, and make sure he wasn’t seen by the general public as having played a role in Trump’s most egregious election tampering schemes.
Once Barr figured out that Trump was going to lose, he knew he could end up being charged with felony obstruction of justice once Trump was gone. He wanted to reduce his odds of that happening, so he simply tried to get out of history’s way, and hoped that he’d be forgotten by the time the dust settled and the post-Trump DOJ decided whom to indict.
Barr’s only other option would have been to hang in there with Trump all the way to the end, propping up Trump’s phony election conspiracies, and hoping it would be enough to earn a pardon from Trump. But Barr appears to have decided that it either wasn’t worth the additional criminal exposure required to try to earn that pardon, or that he simply didn’t trust Trump to pardon him in the end.
When Barr announced on Tuesday that Trump lost fair and square, it was presumably his way of truly trying to distance himself from Trump’s criminal endgame. This isn’t the best plan, of course. Barr’s strategy for staying out of prison is now basically “please don’t hurt me.” But nearly every Trump regime scheme was based on the presumption that Trump would win reelection. When it became clear that he was going to lose, all the good options disappeared. Now Barr is left trying to minimize how ugly this gets for him, because it’s all he has left to try.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report