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How much can a man in Bill Barr’s position afford to be made to look ridiculous?


Given that ritual humiliation from the don is a baked-in price for an ambitious capo, my guess is “a lot”:

Attorney General Bill Barr asked President Donald Trump to knock off his extremely public interference in the sentencing of his longtime buddy Roger Stone last Thursday — even though he took Trump’s hint and intervened to lower Stone’s sentencing recommendation. But in the eight days since Barr made his request, Trump has made a mockery of him.

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC, in comments some took to be a rare rebuke of Trump from one of his top officials. “To have public statements and tweets about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make[s] it impossible for me to do my job and assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

Barr was purportedly so mad that unnamed administration officials leaked word to reporters earlier this week that he was considering resigning unless Trump stopped commenting on cases in a manner aimed at tipping the scales for his associates.

But if anything, Trump has escalated his efforts to intervene in the workings of justice since Barr went on record asking him to stop. The president’s gripes have fallen into two buckets: complaining that Stone and other associates of his who have been convicted of crimes (such as Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn) have been treated unfairly, and calling for his perceived enemies to be dealt with more harshly.

Trump is betting that Barr is willing to tolerate a lot to advance the cause of authoritarianism, and he’s probably right. Barr is the man Chris Christie only wised he could be.

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