Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr played a critical role as President Trump’s deceitful and mostly reliable “hatchet man,” which happens to be the title of Elie Honig’s book “Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor’s Code and Corrupted the Justice Department.”
According to Honig, a former federal prosecutor, Barr, while running the Department of Justice from Feb. 14, 2019, to Dec. 23, 2020, probably became the most corrupt U.S. attorney general in the past century.
Honig contends Barr repeatedly violated the written rules of the DOJ and the unwritten norms and principles that constitute the “prosecutor’s code.” At times, Honig says, Barr also conspired with the president to the detriment of his political opponents, democracy and the rule of law.
The first time Barr served as U.S. attorney general — from 1991 to 1993, under President George H.W. Bush — he oversaw the pardon of Iran-contra felons, including the former secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, in the name of national security. Three decades later, his oversight was on behalf of Trump or his allies’ wrongdoing.
This included distorting the findings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller to trying to manipulate the law to squash a whistle-blower’s complaint about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine to undermining his own prosecutors, for instance, firing Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was investigating the president and his Trump Organization.
Finally, in the months running up to the 2020 election, Barr repeatedly amplified the baseless claims and conspiracy theories about massive mail-in ballot fraud that never materialized.
On Dec. 16, 2021, Michael Cohen, ex-Trump attorney, filed a lawsuit suing Trump, Barr and others for 18 days of “retaliatory” solitary confinement when they returned him to prison after he had been released for home confinement in May 2020 because of COVID-19.
The lawsuit alleges that, at the direction of Trump, Cohen “was remanded back to prison and subjected to great indignities when he was unlawfully incarcerated and held in solitary confinement.”
Cohen revealed on Twitter that current U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s DOJ has refused to defend the former president, but will be defending Barr.
In his book “One Damn Thing After Another,” Barr not only excludes details of his actions on behalf of Trump, he also provides false narratives about his reasons for serving and defending the former president. Barr writes:
“I am under no illusion about who is responsible for dividing the country, embittering our politics and weakening and demoralizing our nation. It is the progressive left and their increasingly totalitarian ideals.”
Barr’s depiction of Trumpian reality is like the one propagated by the former president, Fox News and much of the Republican Party.
More significant, Fox News as well as the liberal news media had devoted their vetting of Barr to his background in criminal law. There was little focus on his extensive background in corporate and financial law, or to his selective enforcement of antitrust law.
From 1994 to 2008, for example, Barr served as general counsel to GTE and, later, to Verizon, the product of its merger with Bell Atlantic. That merger made Barr a millionaire many times over. In 2008, he took early retirement from Verizon, and he received a $10.38 million payout according to Dealbook.
More recently, Barr was on the board of directors of the Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, a hedge fund that had been involved primarily in the acquisition of ski resort properties across the country. He resigned in 2018 in preparation to jump on the Trump train. In 2016, just before Barr joined the board, the company had agreed to pay a $213 million criminal fine to settle charges of offering bribes in several African nations.
As attorney general, Barr gave the green light to several mergers, including the one between T-Mobile and Sprint that had promised to be politically helpful to Trump and the Republican Party.
More than a dozen attorneys general from across the country sued, unsuccessfully, to block the deal. Incredibly, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division took the unprecedented action of participating in the negotiations to bring the merger to fruition in 2020.
And it is not all that surprising that while the government was considering the merger, T-Mobile executives stayed at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., where their lavish spending came to about $195,000.
Gregg Barak, Ph.D., is an emeritus professor of criminology and criminal justice at Eastern Michigan University, co-founder and North American Editor of the Journal of White Collar and Corporate Crime, and author of the forthcoming “Criminology on Trump.”
This story was originally published April 4, 2022 4:44 PM.