MSNBC's Joe Scarborough wondered what Attorney General William Barr's friends thought of his transformation into a right-wing crank.
The "Morning Joe" host said the attorney general has become the president's personal fixer -- as Trump attorneys Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen once had done -- and embraced conspiracy theories aimed at undermining the election, and Scarborough wondered what happened to the once-respected lawyer.
"He has all the money he wants," Scarborough said. "What do you think, what do some of his friends, former friends think about this guy who has savaged his reputation, lies willfully for the president of the United States, and sounds more like a bizarre right-wing blogger than the attorney general of the United States?"
One of those friends, Benjamin Wittes, thinks the attorney general has simply watched too much Fox News.
"I think he believes it all," Wittes said. "I don't think he wakes up in the morning and looks at himself in the mirror and sees, as you describe him, the president's Roy Cohn, or as the president describes him. I think he looks in the mirror and sees somebody who is righteously standing up for the traditions of the [Justice] Department, even over a bureaucracy that is sometimes overzealous in trying to get the president."
"I think he knows how his actions are received, because he clearly knows he's angered a lot of people," Wittes added, "but i don't think he understands the merits of the anger at all, and I think he is not detained for a moment by anything like self-doubt, and I do suspect he has been very substantially influenced over the years by right-wing media, so I think he believes a lot of things that seem like crazy conspiracy theories to you and me."
Scarborough didn't find that excuse persuasive, because Barr has access to classified documents that disprove the conspiracies he spins to the public.
"When he says something like, in an interview, says something like the [Robert] Mueller investigation started because of the Steele dossier, he knows that's a lie," Scarborough said. "He knows by looking at documents, by looking at timelines that lawyers look at, he knows he's a liar to the American people to push a right-wing conspiracy theory. He can be confident what he's doing is in the best interest of America, even though he's actually shattering constitutional norms, political norms, but are you telling me he's so delusional [that] he doesn't know he's a liar when he says, for instance, that the Mueller investigation started with the Steele dossier?"
Wittes didn't really have an answer for him.
"You will not get me to defend that or a myriad of other statements that he's made that are factually incorrect, and some of which may not be factually incorrect, it's wildly inappropriate for him to be talking about these matters, a lot of which are by his own order under current investigation," Wittes said. "Yet he talks about them in a kind of speculative fashion. It's completely inappropriate."
"That said, what is in his mind when he makes these material misrepresentations, I don't know," Wittes added. "I honestly have no explanation for his apparent change, and it is a change from the person that he used to present himself as being and does not bother to do that anymore. So are they lies or are they delusional accounts of conspiracy theories? I honestly don't know."