In a new brief, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr says Donald Trump should not be the Republican nominee for president in 2024.
The man he served between 2019 and 2020, Barr writes, has “shown that he lacks the temperament and powers of persuasion to provide the kind of positive leadership that is needed.”
Trump, Barr says, surrounded himself with “sycophants” and “screwing up outside government jobs, who fed him a steady diet of comforting but unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.”
Trump hinted again on Saturday that he intended to run in 2024. He did not immediately comment on Barr’s analysis.
Last summer, however, he called his former attorney general a “swamp creature” and “Rino [Republican in Name Only] … scared, weak and frankly … pathetic”.
Barr’s book, One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General, will be published March 8, its title taken from a job description by Ed Levi, appointed by Gerald Ford after the Watergate scandal.
The Wall Street Journal, like publisher Harper Collins owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, first reported Barr’s book on Sunday. The New York Times and The Washington Post followed suit.
A staunch conservative, Barr was seen by most as a loyal servant of Trump, the second president he worked for after George HW Bush. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was among those who thought Barr was too loyal, call him “a disgrace” and “not a credible head of federal law enforcement”.
In his book, Barr dismisses those accusations, prominently on the investigation of Russian election interference and Trump-Moscow ties.
Barr was accused of interfering for Trump, eventually releasing a preemptive report summary that drew an objection from special counsel Robert Mueller.
According to the Times, Barr calls claims that he intervened “drivel” and said it was “a simple fact that the president never did anything to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation.”
Mueller, however, presented ample evidence of Trump’s possible obstruction of justice, including the withholding of pardons. In his own report, the special counsel said he could not exonerate the president for trying to obstruct his work.
Regarding Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russians, Barr writes: This as a favor to Trump.
“But I have concluded that the FBI’s handling of the Flynn case was an abuse of power that no responsible AG could allow to stand.”
A former judge appointed to review Barr’s decision to dismiss disagreed, saying it was “clear evidence of gross abuse of prosecutorial power” and represented “highly improper conduct for the benefit of of a political ally of the president”.
Flynn was eventually pardoned by Trump and became a key player in the bid to overturn the 2020 election.
Barr also asked for a lenient sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone, who was convicted of trying to obstruct the Russia investigation. Four prosecutors have resigned but Barr insists in his book that it was “reasonable” to act as he did. Stone’s sentence was eventually commuted by Trump.
Barr also describes a previously reported Oval Office meeting on Dec. 1, 2020, in which Trump repeated his lie about voter fraud in his loss to Joe Biden.
Barr had outraged many by using the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s claims. But no evidence of widespread fraud was found, and Barr used an interview with The Associated Press to tell.
That same day, according to Barr’s book, Trump yelled, “This is killing me — killing me.” It cuts the rug out from under me.
Echoing the reunion stories of Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, and Betrayal, by Jonathan Karl, Barr says the president slipped into the third person.
“He paused for a moment and then said, ‘You must hate Trump. You would only do this if you hate Trump.’
Barr says he told Trump he “sacrificed a lot personally to come and help you when I thought you were being wronged,” but couldn’t support the lie about voter fraud.
After Trump listed other grievances, Barr offered to resign — an offer not reported by Karl or Woodward and Costa.
Trump, Barr writes, shouted “Accepted!”, slapped his palm on a table and said, “Leave and don’t go back to your desk. You’re done now. Go home!”
Barr says White House lawyers persuaded Trump not to allow him to resign. Barr finally resigned on December 14, nearly two weeks later.
On January 6, 2021, after Trump spoke at a rally near the White House, the Capitol was attacked. Seven people died around the riot and more than 100 police officers were injured. More than 700 people have been charged, including 11 for seditious conspiracy. Trump was impeached for inciting the insurrection.
In his book, Barr says: “The absurd lengths to which [Trump] took his “stolen election” claim led to the Capitol Hill riots.
But he also says Trump’s behavior did not meet the legal standard for an incitement charge.