If the January 6 committee could have built a perfect witness in a lab, that witness would have looked and sounded a lot like Bill Barr.
The former attorney general has been all over the first two public hearings of the committee, delivering quotable line after quotable line for public consumption.
“Bullshit,” Barr told the committee of former President Donald Trump’s election fraud claims.
“Right out of the box on election night, the President claimed that there was major fraud underway,” Barr said. “I mean, this happened, as far as I could tell, before there was actually any potential of looking at evidence.”
The Justice Department “doesn’t take sides in the election, and the department is not an extension of your legal team,” Barr said he told Trump in a meeting in November 2020.
“There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.” Barr said of his post-election interactions with Trump.
Again and again (and again), Barr’s quotes were the ones the committee leaned on as it sought to make its case against the former President. And, again and again, Barr quotes were the ones leading the cable news broadcasts and newspaper stories about the hearings.
They represented a stark contrast to the halting and evasive “answers” provided by some other witnesses – most notably Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Kushner, for example, was asked whether he had conveyed his opinion of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the President. After a long pause, Kushner said he had; “Not the approach I would take if I were you,” Kushner said he had told Trump. Enlightening! Not.
The difference, of course, is what the respective witnesses have to lose – or believe they have to lose.
Kushner and Ivanka Trump, at least in their own calculations, have tons to lose. And so they appear to have tried, in these interviews with the January 6 committee (and, really, the entirety of their time in the White House) to thread a very narrow needle: staying close enough to Trump to retain access and power while keeping enough distance to steer clear of the President’s most controversial moves. (The New York Times literally ran a piece over the weekend headlined, “How Jared Kushner Washed His Hands of Donald Trump Before Jan. 6.”)
Barr, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to lose. He resigned as attorney general in mid-December 2020 amid ongoing issues with Trump and his increasingly wild (and fact-free) claims about the 2020 election. And even that stint as the nation’s top cop was sort of like a victory lap for Barr anyway; he had held the same job in the Bush 41 administration.
Barr is also 72 years old. He’s very unlikely to serve in another Trump administration (if Trump runs and wins in 2024), and he’ll be too old to do so if Trump loses in 2024 and it’s not until 2028 when a Republican has a chance at the White House.