William Barr does not seem concerned that people know he is unethical, but he treasures his reputation as a ruthlessly effective fixer for Donald Trump. As the events of recent weeks have made plain, however, that reputation is undeserved.
When Trump nominated Barr to serve as attorney general in 2018, many expressed hope that this “old Washington hand” would return respect for the rule of law to the Department of Justice. Barr swiftly burst that balloon by baldly lying about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings, even as he hid them for weeks. Since then, Barr has thoroughly trashed his reputation for probity and fidelity to the law, as he’s successfully manipulated the justice system to serve Trump’s corrupt purposes.
But much like his boss, Barr wildly overestimates his own judgement and intelligence, and hence his ability to effectively employ governmental institutions to serve illicit ends. And while Barr has had some success in manipulating the justice system to protect Trump, he’s also had more than his own share of failures that placed Trump at needless risk or embarrassment, and even impeachment.