Is William Barr the Head of DOJ or QAnon?
John Durham’s investigation of the Russia probe as a criminal matter is further proof that the Justice Department is a tool for Trump now
I warned you William Barr was the most dangerous man in America.
I warned you he would burn Washington to the ground.
I warned you Barr would shatter the Justice Department into a million fragments.
I warned you Barr would run roughshod over the law, mangle the Constitution, shred the separation of powers, and turn the federal government into a weapon to destroy anyone Donald Trump designates as an enemy. From the moment he manipulated and distorted the findings of the Mueller Report to protect Trump, it was clear that Barr is a living, breathing abuse of power.
As opposed to the projected imaginings of Trump’s hated phantoms of the Deep State, Barr really is at the heart of a government conspiracy to destroy any constraints on the power of the executive branch and to eliminate any accountability for the president of the United States.
For the attorney general to personally travel to the U.K. and Italy to investigate Mueller’s Russia probe, and for the president’s minions to be dispatched to Ukraine and elsewhere stalking these Deep State phantoms, was silly enough. That Barr and others came up empty — as one knew they most certainly would — is an embarrassment, but in an administration without shame or boundaries, the solution to failure is to double down.
At Trump’s personal direction, the Barr “Justice” Department has empowered U.S. Attorney John Durham, a prosecutor of a former reputation for seriousness, to run point on an investigation into the origins of the FBI’s own probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. This week, we learned that probe now treats the investigation as a criminal matter. Trump seeks not only to destroy the people who tried to reveal the truth about Russia and 2016, but also to intimidate anyone else who dares to tell the truth about his rampant, ongoing regime of corruption and malfeasance. Barr is his weapon, his tool, his agent of vengeance.
That the MAGA and QAnon crowds see Durham as an avenging angel, a death-dealing wild dog here to maul and devour the Deep State, is both laughable and horrifying. Their fantasies of roundups, mass arrests, secret indictments, and one-way tickets to GITMO for anyone connected to the operations to identify and neutralize Russian election interference are a common element of their wishcasting. They’re convinced Durham will open the floodgates and bust open a conspiracy that doesn’t exist.
The idea that the DOJ’s FISA warrants will prove a conspiracy against Trump fails to meet the laugh test. Barr has access to all of this information, and if any of it would clear Trump’s name or damage his targets, Barr would have leaked it or launched the DOJ’s resources on something other than a long-range, multi-year Durham investigatory slog.
They want charges of treason. They want Comey, Strozk, Page, Brennan, Clapper, and others arrested. They want a criminal probe of the Mueller effort, despite their contradictory assertion that the Mueller Report exonerated him.
The Trump folks built a baroque conspiracy in their minds that involves a Deep State with powers well beyond what actually exists.
It’s vital to their narrative that sinister forces have had it in for Trump since the beginning. These Deep Staters are — in the best tradition of all authoritarian propaganda — forces that are both all-powerful and purely malevolent. Whether it’s liberal academia, the mainstream media, Islamists, gays, globalists, or Never Trump Human Scum, the agitprop always casts these forces as having powers beyond human understanding.
As the Trump administration feeds its conspiracy-addled base, Barr’s DOJ dribble out a steady stream of alleged discoveries and hypothetical cases to try to assemble a storyline that runs right back to the ultimate superpowered bad guy in their pantheon: the Kenyan Muslim Socialist Sharia Sleeper Agent, Barack Obama. They’re already pushing the emergent theme of “What did Obama know, and when did he know it” — despite the ludicrous nature of the claim.
There was only one 2016 conspiracy, and that was the one Russia waged to elect Trump.
That it’s all fake doesn’t matter. Clicks and tweets are all that counts in the president’s domain. That’s why Barr’s political commissars at the DOJ will feed the breathless coverage of Durham. That’s why the descriptions of the “conspiracy” will grow more fevered and more exaggerated, and why Fox will fill the airwaves with ever-more operatic claims of a plot against Trump.
But they’re hunting for nothing.
The real government — including the intelligence services — doesn’t work that way. There is no unified secret state, no Intel Community Illuminati secretly pulling strings. The origin story of the investigation into Russia didn’t emerge in a smoke-filled room, but bubbled up from reports of shady Russian connections. There was only one 2016 conspiracy, and that was the one Russia waged to elect Trump.
Even Barr’s DOJ won’t deliver a conspiracy big enough to satisfy the Trump crowd. Did Lisa Page and Peter Strzok send some text messages that weren’t professional? Sure. But that’s hardly going to rise to the level where a show trial drags the alleged bad guys before the bar of Justice.
The final element of this crisis is the increasing legal dissonance. Barr is playing antagonist to the so-called Deep State while ignoring and bypassing the actual crimes being committed by the president, and the president’s minions, staffers, allies, and outside legal counsel. His total disinterest in requiring the White House to follow the law, his selective persecution — yes, I used that word advisedly — of Trump’s enemies and his refusal to uphold his oath is stunning.
Barr is openly coordinating an illegal and dangerous effort in support of the president’s private legal defense and political defense efforts. He is weaponizing the DOJ to target Trump’s political opponents. Barr will investigate the investigators until he either breaks them or intimidates them into submission.
Barr has chosen to be Trump’s enforcer, buffer, and legal gymnast. And for that, he poses a risk not only to the DOJ, but to the Republic itself.