Bari Weiss interviews deep state AG Bill Barr about the not deep state, the not stolen election, and the not insurrection

Just remember this: Trump did have the means to intervene in the steal. He had the power to use the courts to properly challenge not only the outright fraud, but the illegal election procedures passed by unlawful authorities. He chose not to do that. Also, no one was asking Pence to “overturn” the election on Jan 6. His entire role that day was to certify, or not certify, the electors. There was plenty of evidence to send the electors from the problem states back home, and the support was there on the floor that day.

BW: I want to begin with a quote from your wife, Christine. “The Left and the Press have lost their minds over Trump and Trump is his own worst enemy. Any sacrifice you make will be wasted on this man.”  That’s what she told you in 2019 before you joined the Trump administration. Obviously, you did it anyway, which is why we’re talking. But was she right? 

AG BARR: She was, as usual, dead on. The left has lost their mind over Trump. Trump Derangement Syndrome is a real thing. But Trump is his own worst enemy. He’s incorrigible. He doesn’t take advice from people. And you’re not going to teach an old dog new tricks. 

So I was under no illusions when I went in. But I thought a Republican administration was important during this period. I hadn’t supported Trump originally, but once he got the nomination I supported him and I felt he was following good, sound policies generally. And I thought that he was being unfairly treated. I felt Russiagate was very unjust and I was suspicious of it from the very beginning. I was also upset at the way the criminal justice process has been used and, I thought, was being used to interfere with the political process. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. were being battered and I care about those institutions. 

I felt I could help stabilize things, deal with Russiagate and get the Justice Department and the F.B.I. on course. So I agreed to do it.

BW: “Any sacrifice you make will be wasted on this man.” True or not true? 

AG BARR: I hoped that it wasn’t true. I thought there was a chance he would rally to the office and be more disciplined in his behavior. I thought he might recognize that the presidency is a unique office, which is not only a political leader but the head of state, representing the whole nation. I hoped he would rise to the occasion. He didn’t.

I said to him when I first started that I thought he was going to lose the election unless he adjusted a little bit. And if he did adjust, he could go down in history as a great president. He continued to be self-indulgent and petty and turned off key constituencies that ultimately made the difference in the election. 

BW: When you were offered the job by the Trump administration to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, you had already had a very long career. You had been in the CIA. You had worked as AG under George H.W. Bush. By 2019, you were in private practice. You’re looking forward to your retirement. So why do it?  

AG BARR: I ran out of people to throw between me and the president.

BW: Who did you try to throw between you and the president? 

AG BARR: I named a few former deputy attorneys general, even Mike Mukasey, former attorney general, and others. But Trump seemed very interested in talking to me. 

I had to make the decision: Am I going to even talk to the guy? I’m not going to talk to him unless, at the end of the day, I’d be willing to accept the offer. Initially, I wasn’t. It meant a complete disruption of my life. But I felt that, of the names before Trump, I was probably the one who could get confirmed. And I thought I could do a decent job. All the reasons for not doing it were my personal comfort.

BW: Let’s talk about Russiagate for a moment. How do you understand how it took hold? The idea that Donald Trump was a compromised agent of Moscow. That there were deep connections between Trump’s people and Russian intelligence. That the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians, including by hacking Democratic National Committee emails. How do you understand why or how these ideas took hold?

AG BARR: Information has now come out that supports the proposition that these ideas really got going because of a political ploy by the Clinton administration to try to hang Putin around Trump’s neck and claim they were in cahoots. I never thought there was any basis for this. The Russians did apparently hack and dump. They stole emails and they dumped them out in the public. That is really the extent of what happened. And that is their stock and trade—that’s what they do all the time. They don’t have to collude in order to do that. It never made sense to me that they would get Americans involved in that operation. 

Putin also had his own reasons for despising Hillary Clinton. He didn’t need any other motivation to go in and screw around with the 2016 election. The things that Trump was being accused of—the policy positions he took— had a constituency within the Republican Party for a while. Before the 2016 election, Kissinger had talked about the idea of Finland-izing Ukraine and recognizing that Russia had deep interests in Crimea. These were not wacky ideas. And they didn’t necessarily mean that he was in the pocket of the Russians. 

BW: These ideas—that Trump was working with Putin; that he received unfair help in the election from Russian meddling—were ideas that many supposedly serious people endorsed every single night on television and in our newspapers. These ideas were mainstream. 

AG BARR: My perception was that before the election, there was a smaller group that gave these ideas credence and tried to help give them traction. But at the time, the mainstream media didn’t pay that much attention to it. It was really after the election that the mainstream media went hammer and tongs after this story. That was curious because, after the election, the dossier and the other stuff they had been relying on had collapsed. It was pretty clear not too long after the election that this whole thing was a farce. Yet that’s when both the F.B.I. doubled down on it, and the mainstream media kicked in. I always thought that was very strange. 

BW: As the mainstream media is hammering this story, the F.B.I. is getting to work. The short of it is this: Robert Mueller, the former head of the F.B.I. and a longtime friend of yours, oversees the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. After a two-year investigation, Mueller concluded the following: Russia did interfere in our election to favor Trump. The Trump campaign probably benefited from that interference. But Trump was not a Russian agent. 

On the question of obstruction of justice, Mueller neither accused Trump nor exonerated him, which left the situation in a kind of cultural limbo. What followed the Mueller report was a series of memos, testimonies, letters, press conferences, subcommittees, and more memos. Throughout this entire ordeal, there was a lot of criticism from the left. Both criticism directed at Mueller for not making a clear conclusion on the question of obstruction of justice, but also criticism directed at you for what they felt was your mischaracterization of the findings of the investigation in a way that favored Trump. Just last week, a federal appeals court ruled that the Justice Department, under your leadership, improperly withheld portions of an internal memo that you cited when you announced that Trump had not committed obstruction of justice. 

I bring all of this up not to rehash every detail, but simply to ask: Where does this end? When does this end? How does this end? 

AG BARR: I think it ended with Bob Mueller’s testimony over the summer of 2020. It really collapsed at that point. I’ve been surprised that the mainstream media and the people who fanned this to the point of hysteria haven’t come back to say: “Yeah, there was a big lie in 2016 that has hurt the country and distorted our politics and foreign policy throughout the Trump administration. It was unjust. It was wrong. And we made a mistake.” Very few, if any, have come out to say that. 

BW: Do you have any regrets about how you handled the Mueller report? 

AG BARR: No, I don’t. I would do exactly the same as I did. People have to understand that Mueller threw this hot potato into the political process and the body politic.

BW: Why did Mueller handle it the way that he did? 

AG BARR: I don’t think he was on top of his game. I think he made some very serious errors. The whole reason Rod Rosenstein brought him in is to have someone authoritative deal with it. Once this issue was raised, it was important to have someone speak to the country and tell them what he had found. 

But he goes out and hires partisan Democrats to make up his investigative team, which means half the country is going to be suspicious from the very beginning. That defeated the whole purpose of naming him. I think it was pretty evident within a few months of his taking the position that there had been no collusion. But instead of stopping it at that point and letting the country move on, he took two instances that clearly were not obstruction and which even his final report doesn’t try to argue were obstruction.

I asked him, when you give me the report, you have to sanitize it. I’m in a position to release it as soon as you give it to me because I can make it public under the law. If there’s a delay, a lot of damage can be done to the country, the stock market, and our foreign adversaries. People are going to wonder if the president’s going to jail. So you have to give it to me in a form in which I can release it. 

BW: Redacted it, in other words. 

AG BARR: Right. Redacted. 

BW: Did he say he would? 

AG BARR: Yes, he said he understood. I said that this was the most important thing as far as I was concerned. Not having a delay between the time I receive it and the time I can let it go. And lo and behold, they show up with a report with no redactions in it. Instead, on the top of every page, it cannot be released with the grand jury material.

BW: Do you think that the reason that was done was so the egg would be on your face? 

AG BARR: I don’t know why it was done. It was inexplicable to me. They knew very well what I needed. While I took three weeks to redact the report, I had to tell people what the bottom line was: That there was going to be no indictment of the president and, therefore, there was no collusion. I said that he didn’t reach a decision on obstruction. I said while he didn’t find obstruction, he didn’t exonerate him either. However, based on the report, I explained why I didn’t find obstruction. Half the letter is me explaining my decision—not Mueller’s decision. I thought that was the responsible thing to do. People who are acting in good faith can scour that letter and not see anything misleading in it. 

The other thing I haven’t really understood is this: If the stuff was so damaging, why didn’t Congress impeach him at that point? There were crickets. I think the idea that I affected the decision by summarizing the report was the left-wing throwing a tantrum because Mueller didn’t deliver the goods as far as they were concerned. 

BW: If the firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey wasn’t obstruction, how would you describe it? Do you think that it was unwise? 

AG BARR: I would describe it as something that should have happened long before. Everyone I knew in Republican and Justice Department circles, including me, was advising Trump at the very beginning of his administration to fire Comey before we even knew his role in Russiagate. It’s because Comey, in my opinion, has some of the personality characteristics that can lead people, like J. Edgar Hoover, to run the F.B.I. according to their personal whims. I thought it was dangerous and that he should go. 

BW: But Trump did it at the height of the Mueller investigation. Do you think that it was unwise to do so then? 

AG BARR: Better late than never, I thought. I’m not sure there ever would have been a good time once Mueller was named and got going. 

BW: During the Trump years, the phrase, “the deep state” went mainstream. Is any part of the idea that there is a deep state true? 

AG BARR: Yes. I think it’s overdone, as many conspiracy theories are. But there definitely are people in the government, as there are in many of our institutions, who are very willful and are willing to sacrifice the values and processes of the institution in order to achieve some higher political end. And they do it. There are pockets of them in the Department of Justice and unfortunately, some in the F.B.I. 

People say, “what do we do about the FBI?” The F.B.I. is like all of our institutions. I wish the F.B.I. was the extent of the problem, but government institutions are generally infected by this. All our other institutions—the medical profession, journalism, science—are also being politicized. 

BW: Have they always been politicized? And we just didn’t know about it because there wasn’t the internet and social media and all of the tools that make things available for us to see and make judgments about with our own eyes and ears? Or are they only now becoming politicized? 

AG BARR: I think there’s always been some partisan element. The media’s always been tilted toward the Democrats. But it’s much more aggressive today than it’s ever been. People are much more willful and willing to sacrifice institutional values in order to achieve a broader political objective. To them, institutions are a means to an end. 

The justice system has certain processes and values we follow in order to try our best to achieve justice. It’s a means of achieving justice, but we have processes that we have to adhere to, like due process and evidence. Same with journalism. There are certain disciplines that you try to use because ultimately you’re trying to present what’s objectively true. You sift through the evidence and have people who can back up what you’re saying. 

But in all these institutions, those values are being sacrificed because people are trying to short-circuit in order to get to what they think is a higher objective. That corrupts the institution. Suppose someone in the justice system stepped back and said, “This is not really producing justice, so we’re going to assassinate people we know are criminals that have gotten off the hook.” That’s been done in some countries. That’s sort of the right-wing version of what I think is left-wing subversion of these institutions, sacrificing the processes and the values that make these instruments of society achieve certain ends. 

BW: Let’s talk about the 2020 election. Trump had been making some comments ahead of the election about not leaving office that you and many others had written off as a joke or hyperbole. Here’s one thing that you said to the Chicago Tribune on September 11, 2020: “You know how liberals project all this bullshit about how the president is going to stay in office and seize power? They’re projecting. They’re creating an incendiary situation where there will be a loss of confidence in the vote.” Looking back, were they projecting? And were you wrong? 

AG BARR: It was a mystery to me why people kept on saying that he was going to try to remain in office. I thought they were setting the stage for a close election that Trump won and claiming that he had stolen the election. I had never heard of some plan to stay in office and I don’t know anyone else who had heard of that, except, it appears, Steve Bannon. There was a pre-election audio that was leaked where he said that the president was going to stay in office. 

BW: Did you underestimate Trump’s disregard for the truth and disregard for the results of the election? 

AG BARR: I underestimated how far he would take it. I thought on December 14, when I tendered my resignation, the states had all certified the votes. To me, that was it. That was the last stop. There was no process beyond that which would allow him to challenge the election. I thought it was safe to leave at that point. I was wrong. I did not expect him to take it as far as he did with these very whacky legal theories that no one gave any credence to. 

BW: You wrote in the weeks following the election that Trump “took a dangerous turn.” You said he was “beyond restraint” and would only listen to “a few sycophants” who told him what he wanted to hear. Can you take us back to that moment? Who were the sycophants? And what was going on in the days after the vote? 

AG BARR: Immediately on election night, the president came downstairs early in the morning and started saying there was major fraud underway and pointing to the fact that votes at the end of the evening were overwhelmingly Democrat. But we had expected that all along. Everyone had been saying that’s exactly what would happen. Using that as evidence of fraud made no sense to me. Suggesting there was major fraud as early as he did, in retrospect, looks to me as if that was the plan for election night. If we think we’re going to lose, we’re going to claim it was fraud. 

In any event, right away there were all these allegations spilling in about election fraud. The Department of Justice has control over investigating fraud, but not challenging rule changes or allegations that the rules weren’t being followed. Those have to be litigated by the states. The more we looked at the fraud allegations, the more we saw that most of them were frivolous, and those that weren’t frivolous were simply not substantiated by the evidence. 

BW: When he came down at two in the morning and said that there was major evidence of fraud, was there anyone in the room that entertained that idea? Were people taking that seriously? 

AG BARR: I think his supporters who were there took it seriously. I had left earlier in the evening because I thought it was headed for defeat and I didn’t feel like partying. But there were people there that accepted Trump’s claims of fraud. I wanted to make sure that I had looked at some of the major items that they were relying on before I said anything publicly. 

BW: At noon on December 1, 2020, you had lunch with a reporter from the Associated Press. What happened at that lunch? What did you tell him? 

AG BARR: The president was out there continuing to say that there was major fraud and claiming that the Department of Justice was asleep at the switch and wasn’t doing anything about it. By that time, I decided I really had to say something publicly. I thought it was irresponsible to keep on talking about the election being stolen unless we had some evidence of it. And there was none at that point. 

I talked to the AP reporter and I told him that to date we haven’t seen evidence of fraud on a scale that would have affected the outcome of the election. I knew when I said that that I would probably be fired for it because it contradicted the president publicly. But I felt that I had to do it. I had an appointment with the chief of staff at the White House that afternoon. I told my secretary that she might have to pack up for me because I would probably be fired. I went over and the president asked me to come in. 

BW: And what happened? 

AG BARR: He was in a little dining room that adjoins the Oval Office. He was as furious as I’d ever seen him. He confronted me and said, “Did you say this to the AP?” And I said, “I did. Because it was the truth.” I went over some of the allegations. He said there was plenty of evidence of fraud. I explained in some detail why the allegations didn’t fly. I told him that there were only five or six weeks to challenge a presidential election because the Constitution requires the Electoral College to meet at a certain date and he didn’t have much time. He’d already wasted five of your six weeks with this crazy stuff about the Dominion machines. He’d wheeled out this clown show of lawyers that no reputable lawyer is willing to work with. 

BW: Sidney Powell and people like that. 

AG BARR: The dream team. 

I said, “Look, I know you’re unhappy with me. I’m going to tender my resignation.” And he slammed the table. Everyone jumped. And he said, “Accepted.” So I said OK and left. I was getting into my car right outside the White House and all of a sudden, people started pounding on the windows. It was late at night and raining, so it was sort of this eerie thing. The president sent Cipollone, another White House lawyer, out there, to retrieve me and tell me “Nevermind, he’s not going to fire you, and would you come back in?” And I said, “I don’t think there’s any use to going back in tonight. I’m going to go home. But we can talk about it in the morning.” 

BW: And you decided to stay on for another two weeks. 

AG BARR: Yes. The chief of staff called me and said, “Look, I think there’s a way through this, we don’t want to be blindsided. Would you agree to stay until the 20th?” And I said I’d stay on as long as I felt I was needed and I wouldn’t blindside them. They knew what I was thinking. Then a few weeks later, I went in and resigned, effective on December 23.

BW: Who inside Trump’s administration was encouraging the president to stick to his claim that the election was stolen and that there was massive fraud? 

AG BARR: I don’t know. Reading newspaper articles now, it appears there are certain players who were doing that, but I didn’t have any knowledge of that at the time. 

BW: So you didn’t hear or see anyone, that you remember, egging him on? 

AG BARR: The last time I saw the president was when I went in to resign on December 14. That was the only meeting I had with him after December 1, when he blew up. I didn’t have much contact. I knew the legal community in the administration was telling him that there was not sufficient evidence of fraud. 

BW: What was it like working for the president as he was going out every day claiming that he’d won the election that he clearly lost?

AG BARR: I was somewhat demoralized that he was leaving office this way. The left says, “Oh, you said all these nice things about him in your resignation.” But I felt that what he should do was focus on all his achievements and leave with dignity. Whether he thought there was fraud or not, he had his day in court and he lost. 

So I was demoralized that he was going out the way he was. I thought it was very unfair to all the people, especially the younger people, who had worked in the administration. It hurt them getting jobs and it also hurt the Republican Party, which I thought up until then, could take the high ground as the party of law and order. 

BW: I reread your resignation letter in preparation for this talk. I’ve written some resignation letters myself. You’re pretty generous toward Trump in it. You call his record “historic.” You mention some of his major achievements in the face of what you call relentless, implacable resistance. You’re now giving us a lot of insight into what was actually going on behind the scenes. And that, in fact, you’d already quit two weeks before you wrote that letter. Why did you decide to write that letter in the way you did? 

AG BARR: I felt that that’s what he should be talking about. That should essentially be his swan song. 

BW: So in other words, you were giving him a script for himself, rather than saying what you felt? 

AG BARR: Well, I did feel it. I just want to make it clear that I supported President Trump. I liked his policies. Up until the election, I didn’t have a problem with his policies. I found him very difficult to work with and I think it took a lot of effort from all his cabinet secretaries, not just me, to keep things on track. (He never really listened to his lawyers, so it was hard to keep things on track.) But I thought we got to the election in pretty good shape and I was proud of the record of the administration. 

I think things went off the rails after the election because I think he felt he had nothing to lose at that point. I was trying to say, “Look, you do have to take a bow for what you were able to accomplish.” I said in that letter that what I believe was distinctive about his administration was he was unjustly treated. He was sinned against with Russiagate. That colored the whole administration. I still think that had people responded to his victory speech—which I thought was a very diplomatic speech the night he won in 2016—we would have seen a different Trump. I think once he thought that the F.B.I. was coming after him and trying to throw him out of office, that affected not only Trump but also his hardcore supporters, who were made very suspicious. I think it fundamentally distorted our politics during his administration. I felt that it was important to say that he did fight against this Trump Derangement Syndrome. And he did accomplish a lot. And it was historic. The economic growth and the fact that people who had been left out previously were starting to participate more. It was a tragedy that Covid arrested that progress, but it was a historic accomplishment. 

BW: So you leave the White House on December 14. Let’s fast forward about a month to January 6, 2021. First of all, where were you that day? 

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5 thoughts on “Bari Weiss interviews deep state AG Bill Barr about the not deep state, the not stolen election, and the not insurrection”

  1. Barr is a completely useless person. And his whole demeanor shows it. “Duh… Antifa burnin’ down buildings… Fire Bawhd!!” – Sums up his testimony on the 2020 summer riots if you ask me.
    His comments on the hacked democrat emails are interesting to me…
    It’s the source of the whole “pizzagate” thing from the 2016 campaign. I personally think there is something to it.
    Want to know why I think there’s something to it? Because I’ve never seen the mainstream media move so fast to declare anything else “fake news.”
    If I were even suspected of such horrible things, I’d be front and center saying it was a simple pizza party! Nothing more! Every friend I had at that party I would drag with me, against their will if needed, to corroborate that fact. “The evidence looks bad, but we need to unwind like everyone else, and we have simple pizza parties.”
    The Obama campaign manager, and his brother are into some messed-up stuff (look at the “art” based Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims he collects!).
    It should terrify everyone that such people had, and now again have access to nuclear weapons.

    1. Remember the Barnhardt axioms:
      The Third Barnhardt Axiom
      Barnhardt Axiom #1: If you can’t stand in front of it and physically defend it with a rifle, then it isn’t really yours, and probably never was.
      Barnhardt Axiom #2: The culture has degraded such that seeking and/or holding office, especially national-level office, is, in and of itself, proof that a given person is psychologically and morally unfit to hold public office.
      BARNHARDT AXIOM #3: If full-on kinetic World War 3 breaks out, the worst possible outcome for humanity would be that the former-US/Washington DC regime win.

  2. So an unprecedented halting the count to drop off truckloads of “mail in ballots” and locking out observers was no evidence of anything. What a scumbag.
    My money says he was in on it.

  3. Agree with all the comments above. I cannot finish reading this lying creep’s responses. Bagpipes Barr is a Deep State-WEF scumbag traitor as bad as Pence, a Bush fixer, and once CIA, always CIA. His actions defending the horrific Ruby Ridge murders reveal his morality and ethics, please spare me his famed “Catholicism”. Trump should never have hired this Swamper Extraordinaire. And, yes, Pizzagate is real. And the Weiner laptop Abudin “insurance policy” video of Hillary is real, although all those NYC cops who found it have probably “killed themselves” by now.

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