Barr resigns: Everyone (except Biden) wins
William Barr resigned as attorney general yesterday, clearing the way for appointment of a special counsel to investigate the crimes of Hunter Biden and any other matters that may arise from that investigation. That "may arise" language, which was included in the appointment of Robert Mueller, functions as an open door to investigate Hunter's father, who received a majority of electoral votes yesterday and would become president if challenges in Congress, as laid out in the Constitution and federal code, do not succeed.
The fact that his resignation letter and President Trump's tweets were cordial tells me that an arrangement between the two men was reached. My strong suspicion is that Trump asked Barr to appoint a special counsel to take over and potentially expand the investigation of Hunter Biden already underway by the U.S. attorney for Delaware and that Barr declined but offered to resign to allow a successor (for now, Deputy Attorney General Jeffery Rosen) to appoint a special counsel.
Barr being sworn in before Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.
YouTube screen grab (cropped).
If Biden is inaugurated, he could easily demand the resignations of all sitting U.S. attorneys, as has been done before by new presidents. That would relatively quietly kill the investigation of the Biden family's corrupt arrangements with foreign entities and governments, since the media would raise no questions and the social media oligopolists would suppress discussion. But firing a special counsel, while not impossible, is more difficult.
Many conservatives, including knowledgeable and insightful commentators, are upset with Barr for concealing news of the Delaware investigation of Hunter prior to the election. While I would have preferred an A.G. who understood that we are in a life-and-death struggle in which the other side is not playing fair and so responded in kind, Barr's devotion was to the institutions of our legal and judicial system, specifically the Department of Justice. Those institutions have self-correcting mechanisms, if they are allowed to operate and the opponents respect the norms. But that's not how the other side is playing it. To analogize, Barr was a Marquess of Queensberry boxer fighting in a cage with a mixed martial arts tag team.
With the arrangement that I hypothesize, Barr gets to quit and keep honoring the code to which he has devoted his professional life. I bet he understands that having already been attacked as Trump's hatchet man, his only defense is to continue to publicly adhere to the rules. See, for example, the disgraceful lead paragraph in the Wall Street Journal's story on his resignation (emphasis added):
Attorney General William Barr will resign just before Christmas, President Trump said Monday, ending a tenure during which Mr. Barr long marshaled the Justice Department to the president's personal and political agenda before falling afoul of him in recent months.
The is ridiculous, given that Barr did not reveal the existence of the Hunter Biden investigation prior to the election or during the impeachment process. Even Chris Cillizza of CNN gets it:
[T]here's [sic] been several examples of late in which Barr bucked the President's wishes in critical moments.
* According to The Wall Street Journal, Barr went out of his way this past fall to ensure that the federal investigation into Hunter Biden's financial dealings never went public in the course of a presidential campaign in which Trump sought to make the son of his Democratic opponent a major issue.
* Earlier this month, Barr directly contradicted Trump's repeated claims that there was widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election," Barr told the Associated Press in an interview.
Those twin moves suggest that, while he was willing to bend to Trump's will, Barr's ultimate loyalty — at least in these instances — was with the rule of law.
Barr was playing it by what I call the Marquess of Queensberry rules, as Paul Mirengoff explained at Powerline:
What about the decision not to reveal that Hunter Biden was under investigation? Justice Department policy states, "In general, the Department of Justice does not publicly announce investigations or investigative findings."
It is also Justice Department policy to be "fair, neutral, and nonpartisan" during elections. This sound policy, in tandem with the sound policy against announcing criminal investigations, strongly supported Barr's decision not to announce the DOJ's investigation of Hunter Biden. No dubious motive is needed to explain the decision, and the decision was not a "tragic failure."
My reading of Barr is that he agreed to leave his lucrative private legal practice and take the slings and arrows inherent in serving as Trump's A.G. because he was outraged by the abuse and corruption taking place at the DOJ. He returned to the attorney general's office because he wanted to right those wrongs and return the Department to the path of righteousness, to which he had devoted himself. That's why he would refuse to violate guidelines, even in the face of abuse of them by his president's opponents.
So he gets to maintain that devotion. But his agreeable resignation opens up the possibility for an MMA-style A.G. to appoint a special counsel to avoid a cover-up of corruption that may reach to the putative president-elect. President Trump, Republicans, and everyone who believes in the rule of law win. Biden and his faction are the only losers. Geniuses like Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler haven't yet figured it out:
"Good riddance," tweeted House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who said the attorney general had "lied to cover for Trump, launched political investigations, subverted justice and the rule of law and violently cracked down on protestors."
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who led an investigation of politicization of the department, said that "whomever Joe Biden chooses as the new Attorney General will have a tremendous amount of work to do to repair the integrity of the Department of Justice."
So, you can count on cries of outrage from them when the special counsel is appointed, as I would wager will happen.