Since his appointment in February, Attorney General William Barr has been the legal fixer that Trump has long pined for, but did not find in his former personal attorney Michael Cohen or ex-AG Jeff Sessions. Throughout the Mueller investigation, Barr prioritized the will of the president over the well-being of the country, covering for Trump with a misleading interpretation of the special counsel report and denying any notion that his boss has undermined the norms of the presidency. In a May interview with CBS This Morning, when the attorney general chillingly told Jan Crawford that he did not care about eroding the independence of the Justice Department because “everyone dies,” there appeared to be no sword that Barr would not fall on for the continuation of a Trump presidency.
But according to a report from the Washington Post, Barr found his breaking point shortly after September 25, the day the White House released the edited transcript of Trump’s call to Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the business dealings of Hunter Biden. After the DOJ released a brisk statement determining that Trump’s call did not break any campaign-finance laws, Trump reportedly wanted more, asking the attorney general to hold a television conference declaring that he had done nothing wrong. Considering Barr’s past behavior toward the president — effectively operating the DOJ as a wing of Trump’s personal legal team — his decision to pass was a surprise. “Everyone dies,” but not without a little due diligence.
Aside from Barr’s decision to avoid the ultimate factotum presser, the Ukraine scandal has put additional distance between the Department of Justice and the White House, as the criminal division of the DOJ is reportedly investigating the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Though Trump and Barr reportedly remain on good terms, unsurprisingly the president has not let the matter go. According to advisers who spoke with the Post: “The president has mentioned Barr’s demurral to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference.”