In any other administration, the firing of a US attorney who had been conducting investigations of the president’s allies would be scandalous. But this is not a typical administration and this is not a typical Department of Justice. Under Barr, the DOJ has become a political instrument for the president. Whether it’s misleading the public about the Mueller report or using tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters so that Trump could stage a photo op, or trying to fire Berman, Barr has repeatedly sacrificed the dignity of his office in order to please his boss.
Barr had a solid reputation as a serious guy. When he reemerged in 2018 as Trump’s pick for attorney general, he was widely seen as a creature of the Republican establishment, and his selection was “greeted with a measure of relief” within the DOJ, according to the New York Times.
But events since have shown him to be a more than willing accomplice in Trump’s slow-motion destruction of democratic norms. Which raises the question: Why has someone like Bill Barr given himself over to an aspiring authoritarian like Trump?