The Corner

Law & the Courts

Bullying Barr

William Barr testifies at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., January 15, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Andrew Cohen writes at Slate that Bill Barr probably won’t make good on his pledge to “stand up to Trump” if necessary as attorney general.

There is far more evidence, from Barr’s decades of public and private work, that tells us he’ll be largely deferential to Trump’s whims and caprices. It’s clear to all that Barr is deeply entrenched as a conservative Republican in the political and legal establishment of Washington, and he acknowledged that he has seen part of his role in the past as supporting the Republican agenda. This despite his pledge, during questioning by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, in which Barr said: “I will not be bullied.”

I didn’t catch much of the hearing. But all I’m getting from this passage is that Barr is a conservative Republican who believes that as attorney general he will be pursuing the Trump administration’s policies within the limits of the law and ethics. He will not allow the president to bully him into disregarding those limits. This tension is theoretically possible for any appointee in any administration, and may be especially likely for an attorney general in this one. But there is no contradiction in what Barr said, and no reason to say that his promise not to let himself be bullied came “despite” his being a Republican.

Otherwise we would have to conclude that being a conservative Republican is a disqualification for serving in a high level in a Republican administration. That conclusion would probably be gratifying to a lot of Slate readers, but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Hillary Ruins the Plan

Editor’s note: Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book is Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is the first in a series of excerpts.  There really was a collusion plot. It really did target our election system. It absolutely sought to usurp our capacity for ... Read More

Another Pop-Culture Christian Loses His Faith

It’s happened again. For the second time in three weeks, a prominent (at least in Evangelical circles) Christian has renounced his faith. In July, it was Josh Harris, a pastor and author of the mega-best-selling purity-culture book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This month, it’s Hillsong United songwriter and ... Read More

A Brief History of Election Meddling

Editor’s note: Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book is Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is the second in a series of excerpts. ‘The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” Thus spoke President Barack Obama just a couple of weeks before ... Read More

The End of Hong Kong as We Know It

The protests in Hong Kong have been going on for more than four months now, and no matter how the current crisis concludes in the coming days or weeks, it will mark the end of Hong Kong as we know it. The protests started in response to an extradition bill that was proposed by the city’s Beijing-backed ... Read More

Max Boot’s Dishonesty

Before yesterday, my primary criticism of the Washington Post’s Max Boot was political in nature. As I wrote in a recent book review, I found it regrettable that Boot’s opposition to the president had not prevented him from “succumbing reactively to Trump’s cult of personality, or from making Trump the ... Read More