According to a report from CNN, longtime Justice Department officials are concerned that Attorney General Bill Barr will do all he can to stay out of Donald Trump’s sight and not interfere now that he was caught up in a squabble with the president over the sentencing of Trump associate Roger Stone.
CNN notes that Barr had previously watched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be swept up in the president’s Ukraine scandal — damaging the State Department official’s reputation — and hoped to keep a low profile in the president’s public disputes.
Then came Trump’s tweet complaining about the Justice Department sentencing recommendation for Stone — which the president thought was too harsh — and Barr saw himself become a major player in the controversy.
According to CNN, “After taking office last February, Barr quickly became a Trump favorite. His success in steering the President through the end of the Mueller investigation– and his public comments that minimized the findings damaging to the president — solidified Barr’s standing. The President respects and feels comfortable around Barr, current and former Justice and White House senior officials who have observed their relationship.”
“But the Stone case has tested that relationship. In an interview with ABC News last week, Barr for the first time publicly expressed frustration with the President, citing the reputational harm his tweeting does to the Justice Department’s work. In the days following, there were even reports that Barr was contemplating resigning,” CNN adds. “Barr’s re-posturing could be aimed at quelling a quiet revolt. Behind the scenes, there’s growing concern among his supporters that Barr is at risk of losing the department. Unlike his recent predecessors, Barr has never been a prosecutor, and his Washington-centric tenure has alienated some of the 113,000 employees of the department, where the vast majority of the work is done in U.S. attorney’s offices and field outposts around the country.”
A CNN notes that suspicions about Barr did not start with the Stone controversy, but have been festering for some time.
“While Barr’s issues have only recently spilled into the open, the disquiet in the ranks started much earlier, officials inside the department say,” CNn reports. “Among some of the issues: a top-down management style, with the micro-managing Barr notorious for weighing in on matters usually left for less-senior officials, and a focus that broadly appears more centered on matters in Washington — and more specifically things the President cares about.”
“Current and former Justice officials describe an attorney general who doesn’t readily take advice and is prone to right-wing conspiracies that he reads in fringe conservative sites on the Internet,” the report continues before adding that Justice Department officials not headquartered in Washington, DC, are happy he has been keeping his focus centered there.
“While Barr has cultivated a reputation for being overly focused on Washington, his absence isn’t universally seen as a bad thing. One senior Justice official says that in many districts, avoiding attention from Washington is welcome,” CNN reports.
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