The Catastrophic Performance of Bill Barr

The attorney general misled the public in seven key ways.

was willing to give Bill Barr a chance. Consider me burned.

When Barr was nominated, I wrote a cautious piece for this magazine declining to give him “a character reference” and acknowledging “legitimate reasons to be concerned about [his] nomination,” but nonetheless concluding that “I suspect that he is likely as good as we’re going to get. And he might well be good enough. Because most of all, what the department needs right now is honest leadership that will insulate it from the predations of the president.”

When he wrote his first letter to Congress announcing the principal conclusions of the Mueller report, I wrote another piece saying, “For the next two weeks, let’s give Attorney General William Barr the benefit of the doubt” on the question of releasing the report in a timely and not-too-redacted fashion.

I took a lot of criticism for these pieces—particularly the second one, in which I specifically said we should evaluate Barr’s actual performance in regard to releasing the Mueller report, and thus wait for him to act, rather than denouncing him preemptively.

Barr has now acted, and we can now evaluate his actual, rather than his hypothesized, performance.

It has been catastrophic. Not in my memory has a sitting attorney general more diminished the credibility of his department on any subject. It is a kind of trope of political opposition in every administration that the attorney general—whoever he or she is—is politicizing the Justice Department and acting as a defense lawyer for the president. In this case it is true.

Barr has consistently sought to spin his department’s work in a highly political fashion, and he has done so to cast the president’s conduct in the most favorable possible light. Trump serially complained that Jeff Sessions didn’t act to “protect” him. Matthew Whitaker never had the stature or internal clout to do so effectively. In Barr, Trump has found his man.

Jared Kushner’s Role Is Tested as Russia Case Grows

Mr. Kushner, who at age 36 occupies an ill-defined role somewhere between princeling and President Trump’s shadow chief of staff

.. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person

.. That relationship had already begun to fray a bit after Mr. Trump’s dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, which Mr. Kushner had strongly advocated, and because of his repeated attempts to oust Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, as well as the president’s overburdened communications team, especially Sean Spicer, the press secretary.

.. It has been duly noted in the White House that Mr. Trump, who feels that he has been ill served by his staff, has increasingly included Mr. Kushner when he dresses down aides and officials

.. the most serious point of contention .. sister Nicole Meyer .. dangled the availability of EB-5 visas

.. In the following days during routine West Wing meetings, the president made several snarky, disparaging comments about Mr. Kushner’s family and the visas that were clearly intended to express his annoyance

.. Both men were reared in the freewheeling, ruthless world of real estate, and both possess an unshakable self-assurance that is both their greatest attribute and their direst vulnerability.

.. a deep confidence in his abilities that critics say borders on conceit

.. intensely proud of his accomplishments in the private

.. is given license to exercise power and take on a vague portfolio .. without suffering the consequences of failure

.. propensity for avoiding messy aspects of his job

.. he wants nothing to do with the legislative process

.. Mr. Bannon .. has taken to comparing the former real estate executive to “the air,” because he blows in and out of meetings leaving little trace

.. Mr. Kushner quickly forms fixed opinions about people, sometimes based on scant evidence.

.. Often, that entails soothing Mr. Trump.

.. Mr. Kushner has made it plain to them that they needed to choose sides or be iced out

.. Mr. Kushner remains infuriated by what he believes to be leaks about his team by Mr. Bannon

.. Mr. Trump admires Mr. Kushner’s tough streak, and shares his taste for payback

.. Mr. Kushner sees his role as a freelance troubleshooter

.. Mr. Kushner has quietly sought revenge on enemies