Attorney General William P. Barr — who has recently faced criticism from President Trump for not prosecuting his political rivals — has told friends and advisers in recent weeks that he hopes to stay on for some time in the next term, if Trump wins the election.
The assertion from the president’s top law enforcement official might otherwise be unsurprising, if not for the public pressure Trump has put on Barr in recent months to deliver results from an investigation Barr specially commissioned to review the FBI’s 2016 probe of possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign.
Trump also has openly discussed with advisers firing FBI Director Christopher A. Wray after Election Day, even though Wray is only a little more than three years into what is normally a 10-year appointment. Barr has generally sought to shield Wray from Trump’s wrath, though his friends believe he would not resign in protest were the FBI director ousted, people familiar with the matter said. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the politically sensitive topic.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment.
Even amid the president’s attacks, the attorney general has conveyed to friends he would like to stay on the job.
“Barr told me recently he supports the president and would be inclined to stay if the president wanted him to,” said Richard Cullen, a lawyer and longtime friend of Barr who represented Vice President Pence.
It is less clear what Trump wants to do.
In August, Trump told Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo that Barr “can go down as the greatest attorney general in the history of our country, or he can go down as an average guy,” depending on the results of the investigation, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham in Connecticut, into the FBI’s 2016 probe of Trump’s campaign. Trump has agitated for criminal charges or investigations for those he considers political rivals — including former FBI director James B. Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and even former vice president Joe Biden, his opponent in the 2020 race.
More recently, after news reports that results from Durham’s investigation would not be made public before the election, Trump told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh: “I think it’s a terrible thing. And I’ll say it to [Barr’s] face.”
Trump has called publicly for his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, and declined to say whether he would want Barr around in a second term.
A person familiar with the matter said previously that while Barr understands Trump’s frustration about the Durham probe, his pressure was “not going to change anything.” Barr has said previously that Biden was not under investigation in that case. The person said that Barr wants to stay on to see the end of Durham’s work, though it is unclear how long he envisioned his tenure lasting.
If Trump wins, it's going to be because of Barr's work organizing and shepherding the legal arguments that allow SCOTUS to give the election to Trump. And Barr will point to that and say "Now here's what else we can do with the Supreme Court in our pocket."
It's possible that Barr will even be smart enough to continue to not actually arrest Democrats and make martyrs out of them to rally the resistance around, but instead to use the constant investigations into Trump's political enemies in order to grind the opposition down slowly.
Either way, I expect Barr to definitely stick around in a second Trump term, should that scenario come to pass.
Barr will make himself architect of that win, and he'll get to stay and do far worse to us in the future.
And keep in mind, Nate Silver's 10% chance for Trump to win or not, this election will ultimately be decided by how Trump's 6-3 conservative Roberts Court decides to respond (or not to respond) to the election results.