William Barr has had a much better relationship with President Donald Trump than former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who infuriated the president by recusing himself from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. In contrast to Sessions (who Trump fired after the 2018 midterms), Barr has turned out to be a devout and unwavering Trump supporter — and Trump’s current attorney general had high praise for him during an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York. But some people in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), according to Business Insider’s Sonam Sheth, believe that Barr was inappropriately obsequious in his comments.
Appearing on Dolan’s SiriusXM show, “Conversation with Cardinal Dolan,” Barr said of Trump, “He is getting things done. I just sometimes say: if he wasn’t facing the resistance that he is and the dogged opposition that he faces, you just wonder how much more he could accomplish, because he’s accomplished a lot in the face of great resistance.”
Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the DOJ, was among the interviewees who believed that Barr’s gushing praise of Trump crossed the line.
“Sounds like Barr wants to be vice president rather than head an office that historically has had independence even though it’s under the executive office” of the United States’ federal government, Kramer told Business Insider.
Another former federal prosecutor and DOJ veteran, Patrick Cotter, was equally critical of Barr, telling Business Insider that his comments during the interview with Dolan were “in very poor taste” and “tone deaf” because they “so overtly exhibit his advocacy of the president’s political agenda.”
In the early 1990s, Barr served as U.S. attorney general under another Republican president: the late George H.W. Bush. Barr compared Bush and Trump during his interview with Dolan, saying, “They’re very different. I love both men. H.W. was more low-key. He had a very strong interest in foreign policy, in which he really focuses attention on. The interesting thing about President Trump is that he’s very hands-on. He’ll bring people in to explain things to them. He’ll reach down and bring the experts in … and he listens.”
But Frank Montoya, a former FBI special agent, found Barr’s claim that Trump pays close attention to what advisers have to say to be downright laughable — telling Business Insider, “Wow, this stuff really does fly in the face of reality.”
Trump, Montoya pointed out, doesn’t seek expert advice — he prefers to be surrounded by obedient yes-men. If Trump cares what advisors have to say, Montoya asked Business Insider, “then why did he say that he knew more about warfare than his generals? Why does he call himself a stable genius? Why did he tell Michael Bloomberg shortly after the election — after Bloomberg told him it was important to surround himself with smart people — that ‘no one was smarter’ than him? Why did he berate senior officials at the Pentagon when they told him things with which he didn’t agree?”
Cramer also disagreed with Barr’s claim that Trump is happy to listen to expert advice. That description of Trump, Cramer told Business Insider, would seem to “contradict every other account the public has heard from others that presentations to Trump need to be light on facts, words and time.”
One could also ask: if Trump cares what advisers have to say, why did everyone from Sessions to former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to former National Security Adviser John Bolton to former Defense Secretary James Mattis to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen grow so frustrated with his pig-headed refusal to heed their advice? Why was he so dismissive of their input?
Montoya told Business Insider that Barr, during the Dolan interview, made himself look like someone who cares more about Trump than he does about the wellbeing of the DOJ. The former FBI agent asserted, “Barr’s comments do nothing but reinforce an inexplicable devotion to a con man.”