Bill Barr: Bullshit from the Top

 

This is how former Attorney General William Barr testified under oath before the Congressional Hearings,

“I had 3 discussions with the President that I can recall. One was on November 23rd, one was on December 1st, and one was on December 14, 2022 and I had been there to present the give and take of those discussions and in that context I made it clear that I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff which I told him was bullshit. You know I didn’t want to be a part of it and that’s one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did. I observed I think it was on December 1st that you know you can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view unsupported by specific evidence that the election, that there was fraud in the election.”

 

As a result of such testimony by Barr, Chairman Bennie Thompson, of the Select Committee of the US House of Representatives said this in his opening statement,

“Bill Barr on election day 2020, was the Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement official in the country, telling the President exactly what he thought about claims of a stolen election. Donald Trump had his days in court, to challenge the results.  He was within his rights to seek those judgments. In the United States law abiding citizens have those tools for pursuing justice. He lost in the courts just as he did at the ballot box. And in this country that is the end of the line. But for Donald Trump that was only the beginning of what became a sprawling multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election, aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans. Your votes. Your voice in our democracy and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his term ended. Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy and ultimately Donald Trump the president of the United States spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy. Any legal jargon you hear about seditious conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the United States boils down to this: January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup.  A brazen attempt, as one rioter put it, shortly after January 6th to overthrow the government. The violence was no accident. It represents Trump’s last stand; a most desperate attempt to halt the transfer of power.”

 

I think that is a pretty reasonable interpretation of those events based on testimony of people like Bill Barr and others.

 

What did Bill Barr think about Trump?

 

 

Bill Barr was a special case.  I will need a few posts to deal with Barr’s views of Trump. He knew him well.

Bill Barr was a loyal Attorney General for Trump until very near the end of his presidency.  He stayed loyal until he just could not be loyal anymore. And really that is unfair. He was not disloyal. He just could not do Trump’s bidding any more.

Bill Barr was a loyal advisor and Attorney General in the Trump administration for years, and who, in the opinion of many Democrats went much too far in protecting Trump from the ill-effects of the Mueller Report, but when he was ordered by Trump to check into claims that Democrats fraudulently stole the election, he conducted a thorough investigation and when it was done, was blunt in his assessment that there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to overturn the results. “Bullshit,” he said. Can’t be much clearer than that.

This is what the New York Times said:

“Bill Barr, whom Mr. Trump appointed as attorney general, said of him, “He will always put his own interest and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest.”

 

Pretty blunt words from Trump’s own loyal Attorney General.

According to Bob Woodward and Robert Costas, in their book Peril,  which shows the extent to which the country was imperiled during his presidency, said, after the election was certified in favor of Joe Biden: “Barr said in a statement that Trump orchestrated a “mob to pressure Congress” and called his conduct a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”

On Nov. 23, 2020 Barr privately told Trump the claims of major problems with voting machines were “nonsense.” Of course, that had no effect on Trump. To this day Trump continues pushing those false claims that his own Attorney General, after a thorough investigation, dismissed as “bullshit”.

After Thanksgiving 2020 when Trump publicly chided the attorney general on Fox News for not turning up voting fraud, Barr decided to speak out. On Dec. 1, he gave an interview to the Associated Press, whose stories circulated in thousands of television and newspaper markets across the country. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” the attorney general declared. That was Barr’s considered view.

Barr and his advisers knew the statement would infuriate Trump but hoped it would also “breathe some reality into the situation,” the second official recalled, and shifted the burden of proof back to the president’s lawyers. Instead, it marked the beginning of the end of Barr’s tenure. Two weeks after the statement, he announced he would leave the job.

 Barr could no longer work for Trump and Trump no longer wanted the rebellious Barr.

This is what former Attorney General William Barr testified before the Congressional Hearings,

“I had 3 discussions with the President that I can recall. One was on November 23rd, one was on December 1, and one was on December 14, 2022 and I been through the give and take of those discussions and in that context I made it clear that I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff which I told him was bullshit. You know I didn’t want to be a part of it and that’s one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did. I observed I think it was on December 1st that you know you can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view unsupported by specific evidence that the election, that there was fraud in the election.”

 

As Chairman of the House of Representatives, Bennie Thompson, a Democratic Senator, said this about Bill Barr,  in his opening statement, based on Barr’s sworn evidence at the hearing:

“Bill Barr on election day 2020, he was the Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement official in the country, telling the President exactly what he thought about claims of a stolen election. Donald Trump had his days in court, to challenge the results.  He was within his rights to seek those judgments. In the United States law abiding citizens have those tools for pursuing justice. He lost in the courts just as he did at the ballot box. And in this country that is the end of the line. But for Donald Trump that was only the beginning of what became a sprawling multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election, aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans. Your votes. Your voice in our democracy and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his term ended. Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy and ultimately Donald Trump the president of the United States spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy. Any legal jargon you hear about seditious conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the United States boils down to this: January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup.  A brazen attempt, as one rioter put it, shortly after January 6th to overthrow the government. The violence was no accident. It represents Trump’s last stand a most desperate attempt to halt the transfer of power.”

 

Chairman Thompson also chided the Members of Congress who resisted an independent investigation or any other investigation of what happened on January 6th. He says “they tried to whitewash what happened on January 6th, to rewrite history, call it a “tourist visit” label it “legitimate political discourse.”  As Thompson said, “This scheme was an attempt to undermine the will of the people.

 It was an insurrection without guns.

 

What did Trump’s daughter think of him?

 

After William Barr dealt dismissively with the claims of Trump that the voting machines were fraudulent and he realized that Trump would not change his mind no matter how often Barr told him there was no supporting evidence or information of fraud, Barr put it this way when he gave evidence to the Select Committee,

 

“I was somewhat demoralized because if he really believes this stuff he has lost contact with, he has become detached from reality. On the other hand when I told him how crazy some of these allegation were, there was never any indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”

 

This is precisely the point. Trump actually had no interest in the truth. None at all. He was only interested in what reinforced his narrative that the election was stolen. Absolutely nothing else mattered.

 

Many Trumpsters feel exactly the same way. They too have little interest in the truth. But one of them did. Surprisingly, it bothered his daughter Ivanka.

 

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump when confronted with what Barr had said, told the Capitol investigation this:

“It affected my perspective. I respected Attorney General Barr. So I accepted what he said was said.”

Another long standing loyal Trump supporter admitted that her father was wrong about a stolen election. Since then she has been mainly absent from his campaign. rallies. She did make an appearance at the Republican convention in Wisconsin.

 

What did Trump’s diplomats think of Him?

 

I must start this post with a trigger warning. It will contain a bad word. But I think that word is necessary. It was used by Trump’s first Secretary of State and former CEO of Exxon. He was one of the guys Trump worshipped. Hyper successful business men.

Let’s start with Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who in July 2017 called Trump a “fucking moron,” as reported by NBC News.  Can you imagine the news if any other President was insulted like that by a member of his Cabinet?  Tillerson made these comments in the presence of the White House national security team and Cabinet officials at the Pentagon.

He had come to realize what Trump was worth. Not much. Bluster and blarney.

Tillerson told lawmakers in 2019 that Russian President Vladimir Putin was more prepared than Trump for a meeting in Germany, putting American officials at a disadvantage. No one should be surprised by that. Trump loves to shoot from the hip without thought. At the time, Tillerson told lawmakers he was guided by “American values” such as democracy and freedom, but could not or would not offer an assessment as to whether the same could be said for Trump, according to a Democratic aide.

Tillerson also called Trump “undisciplined” and Trump would ask him to do things he didn’t understand were a violation of the law.

Tillerson also took a swipe at Trump’s actions during the Ukraine investigation, saying that clearly asking for personal favors and using United States assets as collateral is wrong.”

Then there is former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley who said the President’s decision to remove US troops from northern Syria during Turkey’s plans to launch a military offensive in the region “would equate to the US leaving its Kurdish allies “to die.” Only someone entire without moral fibre would do that. Trump did that! He had no moral fibre.

Former US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker who was involved in the case that led to Trump’s first impeachment trial in the Senate.  Probably most of you have already forgotten about that. It seems so long ago. Volker told BBC News in his first television interview since the Senate impeachment trial he thought “it was a mistake” for Trump to try and withhold aid from Ukraine for political reasons. That is putting it politely. As a diplomat would do. It was much worse than that. It is something that only a fucking moron would do.

 

What did Trump’s Military Advisors think of Him?

 

People in the military quickly learn to be loyal to their superiors. It is a necessity in times of stress and strife. You must trust those above you or at the very least keep quiet about your doubts. Given that, it is remarkable how many of Trump’s military men would not stick up for him. This is even more remarkable because military members who did not know Trump well and often laud him.  But they don’t know him! Those who do know him, often do not laud him.

 

H.R. McMaster is the type of guy right wingers love. He was an admired retired United States Army lieutenant general who served under Trump as National Security Advisor from 2017 to 2018 and is widely respected for his roles in the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Trump was a “dopewith the intelligence of a “kindergartner.”

 

McMaster also said this about Trump: “President Trump and other officials have repeatedly compromised our principles in pursuit of partisan advantage and personal gain.”

 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who Trump proudly introduced as Mad Dog Mattis when he nominated him, later said Trump had the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader.”  When Trump questioned Mattis about why the government was spending money maintaining a military presence on the Korean peninsula he explained this was because that presence was necessary “in order to prevent World War III.” Mattis wrote after his resignation from Trump’s cabinet, that it came after “concrete solutions and strategic advice, especially keeping faith with our allies, no longer resonated.”

 

After Trump tried to fire up the white supremacist mobs, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. After that  Mattis  said Trump was “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people.” He added, “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.” Finally, in his statement he concluded, “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution,” his statement said.

 

Mattis also said this about Donald Trump: “He is more dangerous than anyone could ever imagine.”

 

Remember these criticisms came from his friends who had served him faithfully, until they couldn’t.

Trump’s Chief of staff John Kelly is a retired United States Marine Corps General who became Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security and later Trump’s White House Chief of Staff who almost universally was believed to be the mature adult in the room with Trump who would keep Trump restrained, also said, Trump was unhinged and also an “idiot.’ And he did not qualify that by saying he was “a useful idiot”. He actually called him an idiot on multiple occasions. Kelly claimed he was the savior who had saved the country from Trump. And that might even be true!

The New York Times reported this about Kelly’s opinions of the former president:

“His former chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, described Mr. Trump as “a person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution and the rule of law.”

 

This was a pretty damning indictment of Trump and it came from someone Trump had personally chosen and by no means a woke lib.

 

After Trump was defeated and then ran again in 2023 Kelly was flabbergasted; He watched Trump dominate the Republican Primary “race” with increasing despair. “What’s going on in the country that a single person thinks this guy would still be a good president when he’s said the things he’s said and done the things he’s done?” Kelly said in a recent interview. “It’s beyond my comprehension he has the support he has.

 

What did Other Trump advisors think of Trump?

 

Trump’s former senior strategist Steve Bannon widely believed to be the mastermind behind Trump’s 2016 election win, said Trump was “like an 11-year-old child,” and later said Trump had “lost his step.”  That last one is a pretty mild Trump insult by his standards.

John Bolton who served as Trump’s National Security Advisor said this about him:

“Trump has this impression that foreign leaders, especially adversaries, hold him in high regard, that he’s got a good relationship with Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong Un. In fact, the exact opposite is true. I have been in those rooms with him when he’s met with those leaders. I believe they think he is a laughing fool.”

 

Cassidy Hutchinson was a Republican and loyal worker for Trump until she saw him in action on January 6th 2021 when Trump supporters on Capitol Hill were trying to find Mike Pence in order to ang him.  After seeing him do nothing to help his Vice-President this is what she said, in her book Enough:

“They’re calling for the Vice-President to be hanged. The president is OK with it. He doesn’t want to do anything. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong. He thinks Mike is a traitor. This is crazy. We need to be doing something more.”

 

She also testified under oath at the January 6th House of Representatives, under oath, about how disgusted she was with him on January 6th.

Former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert often worked with Trump because those issues he dealt were issues Trump was interested in.

As Trump was dealing with the Ukraine scandal, Bossert told ABC’s “This Week” he was “deeply disturbed” by the contents of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President. However, he also warned not to rush to judgment. In the same appearance, Bossert said he had told Trump there was no basis for the theory that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 US presidential election to assist Democrats.

Bossert has also criticized Trump for not wearing a face mask in public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Do as I say, not as I do isn’t very useful,” Bossert told “This Week.”

 

Cliff Sims, former special assistant to the President and director of White House Message Strategy wrote “Team of Vipers,” claiming, among other things, that Trump created an “enemies list” consisting of members of his own administration.

It is really deeply surprising how many of Trump’s cohorts, almost all, if not all Republicans, have come out to say how unfit Trump was for office. I think that is unprecedented.

 

What did Trump’s advisors and aids think of Trump?

 

Trump’s advisors had intimate knowledge of how Trump worked, considered, and made decisions.  They frequently saw him in action. They knew him well. After months, or in some cases years of working with him, what was their opinion of their former boss?

 

As Maegan Vazquez reported on CNN,

“All White Houses find themselves confronting the odd tell-all memoir or interview from a jaundiced aide. But Trump, who is famous for demanding loyalty, has not appeared to inspire great confidence in those who quit or were dismissed from his administration.

Those officials aren’t just comprised of holdovers from the Obama administration, staff compelled to testify under oath, or career intelligence and Justice Department officials Trump has dubbed as being part of the so-called “deep state. There’s a long list of allies-turned-critics that includes several of the men and women Trump hand-selected to lead agencies across the federal government.”

 

The New York Times in a recent editorial in which it declared that Trump was unfit to be president, summed up what his people thought of him this way:

 

“Those who know Mr. Trump’s character best — the people he appointed to serve in the most important positions of his White House — have expressed grave doubts about his fitness for office.

 

His former chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, described Mr. Trump as “a person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution and the rule of law.”

 

Bill Barr, whom Mr. Trump appointed as attorney general, said of him, “He will always put his own interest and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest.”

 

James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general who served as defense secretary, said, “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try.”

 Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s vice president, has disavowed him. No other vice president in modern American history has done this. “I believe that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States,” Mr. Pence has said. “And anyone who asked someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.

 

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the highest-ranking African-American staffer in Trump’s West Wing, also said he was “unhinged.” In fact, she used that as the title of her book about her time in Trump land. She also said in her book, “Donald Trump, and his decisions and his behavior, was harming the country. I could no longer be a part of this madness.”

 

Trump’s economic advisor Gary Cohn said Trump was “dumb as shit.”

 

According to Michael Wolf’s book Fire and Fury, both Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former chief of staff Reince Priebus also called Trump an “idiot,” after they had worked with him.  This seems like a very common refrain from his former staffers? They challenged his intelligence. None of them said he was a stable genius.  Only Trump said that.

I have got some of these quotes from Rebecca Morin who wrote an article called “Idiot,’ ‘Dope,’ ‘Moron’: How Trump’s aides have insulted the boss,” in Politico.

Did anyone hear one of Obama’s former staffers say anything like that? Or Biden’s current staff?

But there is more: Next Time.

The Only one who Matters

 

I think there is a lot we can learn about Donald Trump from those who worked most closely with him. They got to see the real Trump.  What was that like?

His Attorney General Bill Barr who served to very near the end of the first Presidency  got to know Trump very well. Bill Barr summed up his views of the president he served so faithfully for so long this way: “He will always put his own interests, and gratifying his own ego, ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest.” In itself this is astonishing. But even more astonishing is the fact that millions of Americans continue to believe in this man’s ability to lead the country. Because really that was obvious to all of us.  How is that possible?

As Mark Epson one of his Secretaries of Defense, said, “He puts himself before country. His actions are all about him and not about the country.” Again this not surprise.

Mike Pence his ultra loyal Vice-President who also served him faithfully until Trump demanded that Pence ignore the constitution and the will of the electorate put it this way: “Anyone who puts himself over the constitution should never be president of the United States…President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the constitution.I chose the constitution.”

When it comes to Trump, everyone knows him. He does not often hide his true self. He has been in the news more than any other many alive. He has bared his soul and his true character over and over again. There is nothing more anyone needs to know. Trump cares only about one person—himself. No one should ever expect anything different. This is part of his DNA.

They described a narcissist who cared about no one other than himself. Even the members of his family were of little concern. He did not care about his party. The country was of no concern.

Should such a man be elected president of the United States?

Killing Political Leaders

 

As some of my readers will know by now, I am not a fan of Donald J Trump. I was about to post about him again and have decided to give him a one day pass.   But I want to be clear I do condone assassinating him. I want Trump to be defeated at the polls. Not in the courts and not at the hands of a gunman. I denounce all attempts to impose political beliefs by violence.

Each time political violence occurs in the United States I am surprised by how surprised Americans are by it.

Joe Biden said the actions against Trump were “un-American.”  But that was not true. Political violence is very American. It is bred in the bone.

As Brian Stetler said on CBC last night:Former Democratic politician Gabby Giffords from Arizona once said, Political violence is  not American. History says it is.”

Matthew Dallek and Robert Dallek said in the New York Times today, “Among all major democracies, then, when it comes to assassination attempts on heads of government, the United States is the leader of the pack.” Those two also pointed out that 4 of the 46 American presidents have been assassinated. That is almost 10%! Such a high percentage is shocking. I would say, killing an American president is as American as apple pie.

  Watching CBC’s The National from yesterday I was struck by a man with a big grin driving a big truck with a big sign on it that said,  “Fuck Biden.” Sort of like many signs we have in Canada He was asked if he thought the temperature of American political debate was too high and he said quickly, without thinking, “Yes.”  Then the interviewer asked him about the sign on his truck? He answered, with another grin,  that it was “the best $25 I ever spent.” Clearly, he did not get it. Then he added, “no shame in my game.” Again, without any irony. He even claimed that 99% of the comments he had received about his sign were “positive.”

Canada of course is not immune to extremism in politics. But it is nowhere near the amount in the US. No Canadian prime minister has ever been assassinated. The US is a country filled with political anger and guns. That is a volatile combination. Yet in Canada there have been many such signs referring to our prime minister with the same words. I have seen such signs unashamedly in Steinbach, the Holy City. At least at once it was the Holy City.  I oppose such signs here as I do in the US.

I keep raising this question about America:  Why is there so much political violence in that country?  I am less concerned about their lax to non-existent gun laws than I am by the ubiquity of political violence. Why are they so quick to turn to violence to obtain political change? Why is their society so violent? Few people seem to be asking that question?  I think we should ask.

 

 

What do Trump’s People think about Trump?

 

 

It is beginning to look more and more likely that the American people with their arcane election system are about to re-elect Donald Trump as their next president. To many of us that seems insane, but nonetheless it almost seems inevitable. (I hope I am wrong about this).

 We know that Trump supporters support him with religious devotion. Therefore, they dismiss out of hand insults from “libs” “woke’ or the “enemy.” Such critics are easy to dismiss. But what about people—good Republicans all—who worked with Trump. What do they say about Trump?  When you look it is amazing.  No president has left such a train of naysayers behind him.

Bob Woodward wrote a book called “Fear: Trump in the White House,” in which he detailed the astonishing chaos in the president’s immediate orbit. But even that is a drop in a bucket of slime flung at Trump by those who gave up on Trump after working with him.  These are people who really know Trump. The numbers of former Trump workers who have nothing good to say about him is literally staggering.

As Josh Dawsey in the Washington Post,

“No president has ever attracted more public detractors who were formerly in his inner circle…. Additionally, more than a dozen people once in his employ could end up taking the stand and providing testimony as part of multiple criminal trials, according to people with knowledge of the cases and court documents.

At the same time, even some who have publicly declared Trump unfit for office have said they would still support him over Biden in 2024.

So far, Trump has surged toward the GOP nomination even as former aides critical of him have blanketed the airwaves, giving scathing speeches, testifying on camera in front of congressional committees and penning books — shaking off the kinds of condemnations that could mortally wound another politician.”

 

That of course is the amazing thing about Trump—his loyal followers continue to follow him no matter what. I have characterized this as religious devotion and I think that is correct. Correct and scary. I shudder whenever political leaders, no matter who they are, attract theological reverence. I consider that deeply dangerous. But for now I want to consider the words of those who worked with him, knew him, and gave up on him. Later we must look at the devoted.