Where’s William Barr? Actually, on Tuesday morning he was in Florida, giving a speech to the National Association of Police Organizations and, of course, posing for photos with elderly retired cops without a mask or even a token gesture toward social distancing. Last week, Barr was in St. Louis to talk about the “success” of the plan to send in federal forces to bolster local police. On Thursday, he’s heading for Indianapolis.
The point is, the attorney general has not actually been invisible over the last few weeks. Neither has he been particularly quiet. He’s still out there doing what he always does—playing up the dire threat of nonexistent left-wing terrorists, while completely ignoring the actual threat from very real white supremacist militia groups. And, of course, he’s still tossing in his support behind the idea that voting by mail generates fraud, without bothering with evidence. It’s not like he’s an attorney, after all.
But what Barr isn’t doing, or at least, isn’t doing so far, is sending a SWAT team to take Joe Biden off the campaign trial, or breaking down the gate at President Obama’s home to slap the cuffs on Michelle. And that, right there, makes him invisible to Trump. Just like that, Barr has gone from the guy who saved Trump from being hurled from office—which he absolutely did with his wholly inaccurate “summary” of the Mueller report and his personal decision to dismiss any possibility of holding Trump accountable—to someone who Trump no longer believes is part of his team.
On Wednesday morning, Donald Trump returned to a theme he’s hit several times at recent rallies—telling Attorney General William Barr to get off his ass and arrest Joe Biden. On a phone call to Fox News, Trump claimed the widely and thoroughly debunked Russian disinformation about Hunter Biden is “major corruption.” And, insisted Trump, “We’ve got to get the attorney general to act. He’s got to act. And he’s got to act fast. He’s got to appoint somebody.”
It’s not like Trump is completely alone in this. After all, Rupert Murdoch has thrown every crumb of his crumbly media empire behind the effort, even when that took running a piece of obvious propaganda so odious not even a New York Post reporter would stand behind it. And on Monday, a handful of Trump’s most adamant supporters in the House joined in to demand that Barr open an investigation into a hard drive “purportedly” belonging to Joe Biden’s son. Only … here’s the measure of how obviously awful this setup really is: Trump got just eleven Republican House members to sign on. That means he still has Louie Gohmert and Steve King, because, of course he does, but even Devin Nunes did not add his name to this effort. Yeah, that’s where Trump has gone; into territory too far for the guy who sues cows.
It’s not as if Barr isn’t pedaling as fast as he can to support Trump—see fraudulent claims of mail fraud and absolute distortion of his own department’s findings about the source of violence at protests. It seems more that Barr, like the nation, is simply staggered by the effort of keeping up with all the standards Trump wants him to break.
There has also been the pesky problem that Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories keep turning out to be baseless conspiracy theories. After months of investigation, the Nunes-endorsed look into “unmasking” turned up nothing and the prosecutor Barr appointed for the job ran for the exit. And following this was the really disappointing news, from a Trump point of view, that Barr’s protege John Durham was not going to be done with his report on the Russia investigation, Ukraine, and whatever else was set on his plate, in time for a pre-election release. All of it together makes Barr seem like a no-show for Trump in his time of need.
This isn’t the first time Trump has taken to Fox News to berate a member of his own cabinet, or even an attorney general—Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III used to be frequent target for both Trump’s media complaints and his tweets—but the fact that Trump’s most loyal toady is now the subject of complaints that have Trump’s supporters, and this is real, claiming that Barr is “part of the deep state conspiracy” is really … an incredible example of panic, confusion, and weakness that has overcome Trump in his final days.
By the way, Devin Nunes, you’re also part of the deep state now. Should have signed that letter.