In William P. Barr's new book, One Damn Thing after Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General, Barr goes into great detail about the chaos, the troubles, and the triumph that occurred during the time of his service under President Trump. This wide-ranging interview covers Russiagate, the COVID outbreak, civil unrest, the impeachment, and the 2020 election fallout.
To view the full transcript of this episode, read below:
Peter Robinson: Two propositions: One, during at least three of his four years in the Oval Office, Donald Trump presided over a talented and successful administration. Two, the Republican Party should never nominate that man for president again. Former Attorney General William P. Barr on his new book, "One Damn Thing After Another." "Uncommon Knowledge," now. Welcome to "Uncommon Knowledge." I'm Peter Robinson. William P. Barr grew up in New York City, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Columbia University, and then earned his law degree from George Washington University. From 1991 to 1993, while still in his early 40s, Mr. Barr served as attorney general of the United States under President George H. W. Bush. Just over a quarter of a century later, he returned to the Department of Justice, reluctantly, as we will see, to serve from 2019 to 2020 as attorney general for President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Barr's new book, "One Damn Thing After Another: "Memoirs of an Attorney General." General Barr, welcome.
Bill Barr: Thank you. Thank you, Peter. It's great to join you.
Peter Robinson: Christine Barr.
Bill Barr: Yes.
Peter Robinson: Mrs. Barr, when you told her President Trump was considering you for attorney general, I'm quoting you, this is your wife, "The left and the press have lost their minds over Trump, "and Trump is his own worst enemy. "Any sacrifice you make "will be wasted on this man," close quote. Was your wife wrong?
Bill Barr: Not really. No, she was not wrong.
Peter Robinson: She was not wrong.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: All right-
Bill Barr: But I would, I don't regret doing what I did.
Peter Robinson: Okay, well-
Bill Barr: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: First, why on earth you did it. You didn't need the money. You didn't need the reputation. You didn't need the trouble, and your very sweet, very tough wife warned you against it. You took the job anyway. How come?
Bill Barr: Well, I thought the country was headed toward a constitutional crisis. I was skeptical about the Russiagate narrative, and I thought it was being used to cripple his administration and drive him from office, or at least I was concerned about that, and the more I learned about it, the more I became concerned about it. The institutional lawyers, the establishment lawyers were not coming to the aid of the president. He was not being given his due as president, and in this respect, I think he was more sinned against than sinner. They created a feeding frenzy around his administration, and when Sessions left, they needed an attorney general who could stabilize the situation and provide leadership at the department, and I tried to throw up other names and push some other candidates, but at the end of the day, he continued to say he wanted to talk to me about it, and I wouldn't go in to talk to him unless I had already made up my own mind that I would take it.
Peter Robinson: Hard to tell a president no.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: "One Damn Thing After Another," again I'm quoting you, "Whatever Trump's failings, "there was one thing I was sure of: "Hillary Clinton was not morally superior to Donald Trump."
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: Explain that.
Bill Barr: Well, I was never a never-Trumper. I thought 2016 was a critical time, and I supported other people for the nomination, starting with Jeb Bush, who I had become friends with when I served under his father, and my last choice was Trump, and I saw Trump's faults, and he had his share, but I also felt that he was, elections are a choice between two candidates, and I thought he was superior to Hillary Clinton, so I thought all... I could never understand never-Trumpers. I mean, just on the basis of the Supreme Court appointments and the judiciary, it was important that he win the presidency.
Peter Robinson: All right, you say you were suspicious of Russiagate. We should know former Senator Jeff Sessions is attorney general for roughly the first two years of the four, and you're attorney general for roughly the last two of the four.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: And so for those first two, you were watching the president of the United States pinned against a wall, so to speak, by this Russiagate narrative, and you're, as an outsider, you're suspicious of it from the get-go. How come?
Bill Barr: Because it never made... I had started off in the CIA, and it never made sense to me that the Russians would've had to collude or wanted to collude with someone to engage in a, what is called a hack-and-dump operation, hack into some e-mails and then make them public. It's a pretty simple thing, just to embarrass them. They don't need to collude with anyone to do that. It's their stock-in-trade, and so it just never made any sense that they would, and the stuff that was being thrown out just didn't add up to me, and the more I saw, the more it just appeared to be a phony scandal.
Peter Robinson: All right, you say the more that you saw, and of course, when you become attorney general, you're in a position to see a lot.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: The book, I have to say, the book is a lot of things. It's a personal narrative that begins with, I thought it was just a fascinating account of what it was like to be a little kid in Morningside Heights in the 1950s. I mean, this is a life story, but it's also a just engrossing narrative of what it was like during those years, so I'm not going to go through all the details of Russiagate. We couldn't.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: We'd get bogged down the-
Bill Barr: Right, right, right.
Peter Robinson: But let me ask you: Here's what we now know. Here's a little bit of what we now know. The FBI. We now know that the FBI launched an investigation into the Trump campaign without anything approaching an adequate legal predicate for doing so. Correct me if I'm wrong about any of this.
Bill Barr: Well, I agree with that for some-
Peter Robinson: Yeah, I'm taking that from this, from, all right. We now know that the FBI understood soon enough that the Steele dossier was at least suspect, but it used that dossier before a FISA court anyway. We now know that at least one FBI agent, in at least one avid instance, doctored evidence. We know that a very senior FBI officials were using official e-mail accounts to exchange texts denouncing President Trump, even after he became president-elect, for blatantly ideological reasons. How could all this have happened? We have one of our intel agencies, intel and law enforcement agencies, where integrity and bipartisanship is required almost more than anyplace else except perhaps CIA and the Department of Defense, and this operation stinks from the very first moment one begins reading about it, as you're learning the details. How could this have happened?
Bill Barr: Well, Durham is supposed to make the judgment as to whether or not this was undertaken in good faith, and it was an example of overzealousness to protect the integrity of the alleged-
Peter Robinson: You better take one second to tell us who Durham is.
Bill Barr: Oh, Durham is the special counsel that I appointed to look into how this got going, how this whole Russiagate narrative got going and why and why people did what they did, especially the FBI, and he's gonna have to make a determination: Was this overzealousness? And did they have good motives? Or was this an example of abuse, going after the president for political motives, essentially, or institutional motives? That's what he's supposed to determine, but when I look at all the facts, as I've said all along, it's inexplicable to me how this got going, especially after the... I mean, I'm troubled by what happened before the election.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bill Barr: But after the election, when the dossier started falling apart, when they found out that the only source for it, this so-called principal subsource, had been under investigation for being a Russian agent and that he was saying that the stuff that was reported by Steele was not facts, but really, just sorta their speculation, they still went ahead, pushing on the administration, going after Flynn and so forth, but proving criminal intent in these kinds of cases is sometimes very difficult.
Peter Robinson: Am I allowed to ask? You're being very judicious. Hard to persuade you not to after a lifetime of professional training. Am I allowed to ask you if it smells bad to you?
Bill Barr: Well, it smells bad, but I'm not gonna state what I think the-
Peter Robinson: You won't call them criminals.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: All right.
Bill Barr: That's for Durham to figure out.
Peter Robinson: Okay, James Comey, director of the FBI, again, just a few particulars. He permitted the FBI to investigate Trump, once again, without anything approaching an adequate legal predicate. He briefed President-elect Trump on the Steele dossier and then either he or somebody very close to him leaked the fact of the president's having been briefed to the press, giving the press a hook to publish the dossier to start talking about, to ramp up the whole Russiagate phony charges. Comey permitted agents to question incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in what you make clear was an improper manner. Comey repeatedly assured President Trump that Trump himself was not the subject of any investigation but refused to confirm that to the press. After President Trump fired him, Comey gave one-sided notes on several of his conversations with the president to somebody he knew would, in turn, leak the notes to the press. You write that Donald Trump saw James Comey as a grandstander, and you a approve of that view with the view you take, but this is worse than grandstanding, isn't it?
Bill Barr: Well, you're trying to get me to come to the bottom-line conclusion, but I really don't feel I can do that. I launched the investigation, and I was the attorney general. It was taking place under me. I think the behavior was outrageous, outrageous behavior by Comey and some other higher-ups at the FBI, but whether it was criminal remains to be determined by-
Peter Robinson: Okay, I get that.
Bill Barr: Durham.
Peter Robinson: But if it strikes you... I mean, I'm just reading this, and...
Bill Barr: To me it is stunning, and I understand people's being upset by the behavior of the FBI, and one of the questions I get most frequently out around the country is what happened to the FBI and how can we turn it around?
Peter Robinson: All right, so partly, I think, for reasons of professional training and partly, maybe, because of the way Mrs. Barr raised you, you're very calm in most of this, and there are passages where I think, "Gee, the only thing that's missing here is real anger. "He must have been white-hot angry about this," which brings us, of course, to the Mueller report. Now, now you're attorney general. Mueller's been investigating this Russiagate stuff for two years, and he issues the report. He divides it into two parts, One is charges that Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia. No evidence that they did so. Two years. The country's tied in knots. No evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians. The second part deals with 10 instances that raised questions of obstruction of justice, so the report claimed, and as you say in "One Damn Thing After Another," that's rather odd. It's a little difficult to suggest obstruction of justice when there was no underlying crime in the first place. What justice are you trying to obstruct? And this second part states, "While this report does not conclude "that the president committed a crime, "it also does not exonerate him," close quote. What did that one sentence do to the presumption of innocence?
Bill Barr: Right, well, the whole second volume dealing with so-called obstruction, he flipped the burden of proof to the president to prove he was innocent versus the government to prove there was a crime, so it's not his purpose to exonerate, to find evidence that he can say, "I've exonerated you."
Peter Robinson: That's not the job he was asked to do.
Bill Barr: That's not his job. His job is to say, "Is there evidence "sufficient to bring a criminal charge against him?"
Peter Robinson: Okay, now, I've learned that I can get you to use the word outrageous. Was that outrageous?
Bill Barr: I believe Mueller's stewardship of the investigation was outrageous. I think there were a number of things that I thought were inexcusable. When he went out and hired a lot of partisan Democrats, headhunters, basically, which completely undercut the whole purpose of his appointment, which was to-
Peter Robinson: Reassure the public.
Bill Barr: Reassure the public this was gonna be above politics, and he went and he made half the country think this thing was a political witch hunt, and then, his whole, I think, by the time he came in in May of 2017, people pretty much knew there was no collusion. I don't think very much more had to be done to nail that down, and yet he started going down this path of obstruction, and the things he used to start that were things which he later essentially had to admit were not, could not be obstruction, which is firing Comey, and this comment he made to Comey: "I hope you can see your way clear to"-
Peter Robinson: "Letting Flynn off."
Bill Barr: "Letting Flynn off."
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bill Barr: Neither of those could be obstruction, but that was the basis he used to start and protract the investigation. He did a great disservice to the country. I think he knew very quickly there was no collusion, and I think he stretched the thing out for two years, essentially bootstrapping up new claims of obstruction. The president's sitting there. He knows this thing is bogus from day one. He knows there was no collusion, and yet they're dragging the thing out with all these silly obstruction esoteric legal theories as to how they could catch the president on obstruction, made the president much more mad, and he maybe does stupid things, but they're not obstruction of justice, so the whole thing was a disservice to the country.
Peter Robinson: All right, let me take, speaking of disservices, there's a disservice to you here. This may seem like a procedural detail, but again, I found this fascinating. You're meeting with Mueller and his top assistants. A few weeks before, they tell you they're getting close to releasing the report, and you raise the question of redaction. They will know because they're working on the report, and they've been spent two years with these materials. There are certain legal requirements. Certain kinds of material must not be made public, and they will know exactly what that material is, so you ask them to do the redacting before they send the report to you at Justice because if you get an unredacted report, it's gonna take your people three weeks to go through the material, and Mueller looks you in the eye and says, "Of course we'll redact it," and then he sends it over to you, and the press discovers that he's finished his report and that it's in your hands, and it's not redacted.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: And the whole world knows that you're holding onto this report, so you send a note to Congress saying there's no evidence of collusion, and Mueller raises the question of obstruction, but does not exonerate the president. You give a very, very brief summary.
Bill Barr: Special counsel found no collusion by any Americans in IRA's illegal activities. Quoting what his conclusion was.
Peter Robinson: Quoting the report, and you send that out, so first of all, he told you to your face that he'd redacted, and he didn't. You do your best to give the press, the public, Congress some understanding of what's in the report, and then Mueller attacks you for mischaracterizing the report, and when you finally do complete the redactions and make the report public, it's clear you didn't mischaracterize anything.
Bill Barr: But the media continued to say that I had mischaracterized.
Peter Robinson: But this-
Bill Barr: But it's, obviously-
Peter Robinson: Bob Mueller had, I've never met the man, but he has... Princeton grad, serves honorably in Vietnam, 12 years as director of the FBI, and somehow or other, he's reduced to a partisan hack by the time of this episode. Is that not fair?
Bill Barr: Well...
Peter Robinson: I'm not even so much interested in him personally as what on earth is going on during these years? Everybody seems to become his own worst self.
Bill Barr: Well, as I said, the president isn't far from wrong when he called this a witch hunt. It's very much like a witch hunt, what happened. They were out to get the president. FBI agents who were working on it have said that it was the exact opposite of what a bona fide investigation would do. They made up their mind there was a crime they were gonna prove, and then they were scrounging around to find something to prove that crime, so it was very wrong what happened.
Peter Robinson: That's the way Stalin's purges operated.
Bill Barr: Yeah, I think it was very wrong what happened, and part of it may have been that Mueller was not hands-on and was not paying adequate attention to what was going on.
Peter Robinson: All right, so you write, again, that Mueller's testimony, he testifies to Congress in July of 2019, and by the end of that day, it's all over, and part of the reason is that Bob Mueller is easily confused. He seems to become tired. He's not the man he used to be, so is it the case that his staff took advantage of a man who was not his former self?
Bill Barr: It appeared to me that his staff was not tightly supervised, but I'll say this: The damage, a lot of damage was done to this country by the pendency of this nonsense for two years. We couldn't engage in normal diplomatic relations with Russia and so forth. Some of what we're seeing today, perhaps, is the consequence of not being able to...
Peter Robinson: To talk to them.
Bill Barr: Yeah, to talk to them and try to work out diplomatic solutions to their concerns and our concerns, and instead, we weren't able to do that throughout the first term, and then, when Biden came in, it was irresistible for Putin to grab what he could, but there was a big cost to the country for this nonsense, and I think that Mueller has to take some responsibility for that.
Peter Robinson: All right, the first impeachment, again, I don't wanna go through all the details, but it'll take a moment or two to set this up. Late July 2019, President Trump has a telephone call with a man nobody'd ever heard of at that point, Ukrainian President Zelensky. Now we know the name. Trump asks Zelensky for help investigating a couple of matters, including whether, as vice president, Joe Biden had pressed the Ukrainian government to fire an anti-corruption prosecutor who was investigating a Ukrainian oil and gas company on the board of which sat Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, so the president has this conversation. He seems to lean on Zelensky. Speaker Pelosi immediately announces, first of all, this is made public. That's one question: How common is it for 30 people to be listening to a conversation the president of the United States has with one of his counterpart heads of state?
Bill Barr: That was typical.
Peter Robinson: That is typical, all right.
Bill Barr: But it didn't have to be. I mean, the president could have reorganized things at the White House once he understood that the national security community was leaking like a sieve during his administration.
Peter Robinson: All right, so Speaker Pelosi announces a House inquiry. They find that President Trump solicited foreign interference in the 2020 campaign, which, of course, hadn't happened yet. The Democrat-controlled House impeaches the president by 230 to 197 votes. The Republican-controlled Senate acquits him by 52 to 48. That's the first impeachment. "One Damn Thing After Another": "While the effort to push the Ukrainians "to investigate Biden was foolish, "I do not believe it was criminal." Explain that, just for the layman, for this non-lawyer you're talking to.
Bill Barr: Well, the theory here was that when a country like Ukraine does something that's politically beneficial to a president, that that should be viewed as a campaign contribution, okay? And what I try to point out is the whole nature of, it's a very slippery slope to go down that. It hasn't been done in the past, and the implications are pretty mortifying because diplomacy, by its nature, is quid pro quo. You do this for me and I'll do this for you. Frequently, presidents are seeking to accomplish and get a deal with a foreign country that is politically beneficial to them, that will help them, like return the hostages. Can I get these hostages back before the election? And so forth, and so to say that diplomacy, quid pro quos, are a crime in the solicitation of a political contribution, would essentially get the criminal justice process right in the thick of diplomacy, and it's crazy. It's crazy.
Peter Robinson: Two quotations from "One Damn Thing After Another": "In one sense, the call with Zelensky didn't matter. "If it weren't that, it would have been something else." They were gonna get President Trump, but President Trump's impeachment, the first impeachment was a self-inflicted wound. All right, now we have the problem with this man.
Bill Barr: Well, it was one of the problems. I give him a lot of credit in that book. This is not a anti-Trump screed. I supported him, and I think he played an important role in history of blocking the march through the institutions that the progressives had been conducting, and stopping it, but he also had a lot of flaws, and one of them was that the kind of thing that he was doing in Ukraine... When he was told no by people that something was wrong or could be, get too close to the line in the law and so forth, he would sometimes try to jury-rig these end runs using private actors, like Rudy Giuliani and others, and he had this outside coterie of people who were dying to be consiglieres to the president, and they didn't have to take accountability or responsibility for it, and they would run these operations, and the two most visible examples of this are Ukraine, which got him impeached, and January 6th, this whole effort to reverse the results of the election, setting up a war room in the Willard Hotel with Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani and this outside coterie of people.
Peter Robinson: So while you're giving him credit, and you give him a lot of credit, could I try, let me try a schema out for you. This is just the way it occurs to me, and I wasn't there. I was sitting in California. The first three years of the Trump administration, if you can set aside the tweets, the personnel, and by the way, I have friends who are journalists in Washington, and he drove them, I mean, there are people who really, in some kind of basic way, went out of their minds.
Bill Barr: Yes.
Peter Robinson: Who were on our... Friends of ours, and part of that is they were in, I believe they were in Washington, and some of them were in newsrooms where there's a screen right up here, and his tweets keep flipping past on the screen, and his face keeps... I was in California, so I'll stipulate, and for me, it was easier to set him aside and look at the policy. He gets a corporate tax cut. The economy actually grows quite briskly for the first time in decades. There were gains in real income for working Americans. He gets the Abraham Accords in the Middle East, which represent, as best I can tell, any dispassionate diplomat considers that a considerable breakthrough.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: He talks nice to Putin, but in fact, he actually moves, as part of a NATO operation, he moves American troops into Poland, bordering Russia, takes a hard line with Russia. He achieves something that no one else had yet achieved in American politics, and that is a bipartisan consensus that China is now trouble. For decades, the consensus was we can work with them. Let's bring them along. They'll become democratic. It's not working, and by the Trump, by the second year of Trump, everybody's, even Democrats are trying to figure out how they can look tough on China. Now, a liberal may dislike all this, but from a certain point of view, a conservative point of view, that was a very successful... And immigration. He doesn't build the wall, but immigration begins to drop off. He gets new resources. Pretty successful.
Bill Barr: He basically got control of the border, and he had to do it against scorched-earth opposition by liberal judges and Congress. He got control of the border, and the other thing is our military had been hollowed out. We didn't have enough ammunition to fight minor skirmishes, and he restored the military strength. There's a whole litany of things that he did. My resignation letter, I went through them. He said, "Boy, this is really good," and I thought to myself, "Yeah, I wish you'd talked about them during the campaign," but, yeah.
Peter Robinson: So we got three really good years.
Bill Barr: Or even more. I mean, the bottom line is that if you discount what he talked about and his excessive rhetoric, and his verbal diarrhea-
Peter Robinson: If you turn off Twitter, to begin with, right?
Bill Barr: Right. His verbal diarrhea, and then you also say that his bad ideas that he threw out there were were not implemented. He got talked out of them. He listened, at the end of the day, he listened to reason, what he actually accomplished was remarkable, and so I think his policies were sound.
Peter Robinson: All right, then, again, I'm continuing with this schema. I've got just two more points in this schema here. Then COVID hits, and this is not so good because here, Donald Trump effectively cedes authority. He effectively cedes the presidency to the public health authorities, who lock down the country. They impose massive costs. We'll be decades recovering from this, and the benefits, we'll see, but at the moment, it looks as though, at the most, here and there, in a few cases, they may have slowed, somewhat, the spread of COVID, but that's the best, now appears, that they accomplished. By the way, this is you on Anthony Fauci. "He struck me as a consummate bureaucrat "with a huge ego and a penchant for self-promotion," and this is the man to whom Trump hands the country. This is not too good. This does not reflect well on Trump.
Bill Barr: So my view is that there are many issues on which Trump had sort of good, sound judgment, issues like crime or immigration, but on some issues that were very complicated and have involved a lot of different trade-offs, and he couldn't, he didn't have a sense-
Peter Robinson: Couldn't see the easy way through.
Bill Barr: Yeah, and he didn't really have a sense of how to handle it. He wouldn't make decisions. He would not lead. He would hang back and allow things to develop and then sort of snipe at people but not stand out in front and lead, and I sort of contrast this with DeSantis on COVID. I'm not for anybody at this stage for the presidency in '24, but I would just point out that when... Look at DeSantis. He actually went out and hired a public health advisor for himself who was really sharp.
Peter Robinson: He was very impressive.
Bill Barr: Very impressive guy.
Peter Robinson: Young, well-spoken.
Bill Barr: Yes.
Peter Robinson: Thoroughly trained.
Bill Barr: Right. Then he made very tough decisions that sometimes looked like they might backfire on him, but he stuck to his guns. He made the tough calls. He stuck with them, and he turned out to be right. That's leadership, and Trump did essentially the opposite. There was a lot of floundering. People were telling him he should bring in more advisors from the private sector and get some different views, but he made Fauci the face of COVID. Now, all that being said, I think COVID affected the election in the sense that but for COVID, he would've coasted to victory because it was just-
Peter Robinson: Yes, because of the economy.
Bill Barr: And his high-water mark was the State of the Union in February 2020, but...
Peter Robinson: By the way, should be noted that despite the way that mouth sometimes worked, he was capable of giving very good speeches.
Bill Barr: Yeah, that was his best speech.
Peter Robinson: And that was a good speech.
Bill Barr: I always thought that was his best speech, but so then in, 2020 comes along, and it threw him off, but I still think he could have won. I think he could have shown a little bit more leadership in COVID, but I think ultimately why he lost was that he antagonized a critical bloc of Republican and independent voters in the suburbs. That was the margin of difference, and he was told that for a whole year. Two things that he was warned about in 2020: one, he was told that he had to get a very aggressive legal team in place to prepare for the elections, to challenge some of the rule changes that were being made in states like Pennsylvania and Georgia. One of his aids went in and said, "Look, you need to set up a fund "of 20, $30 million in escrow "because lawyers don't trust you to pay their bills, "and you need to get a top-flight firm in here "the way you did in your first run in 2016 "to fight these battles all around the country," and he ignored that advice. He did not have a legal team prepared to go and fight around the country, so a lot of these bending of the playing field were his own fault. The second thing he was warned about is that he had to do something about the suburbs because that was his Achilles heel, and that would ultimately cost him the election, and he thought that he could make up for that gap just by getting out his base, and the way he chose to energize his base, which I think was gratuitous and unnecessary, was to do it in a way that even made-
Peter Robinson: Made them even-
Bill Barr: Yeah, yeah, and so what Trump represents is someone who has taken the Republican Party and pitted one part of it against the other as if they're mutually exclusive groups, and they're not. There's no reason that they have to be mutually exclusive.
Peter Robinson: So is this part of the new technology of politics? Here's what I mean: Richard Nixon used to say, "In the primaries, you have to run to the right, "and then, in the general, you move to the center," and that's roughly the way it worked for decades. Ronald Reagan, in his campaign speeches, he would finish talking to the Republicans, and then there would almost always be, "And now a word for Democrats listening. "I used to be a Democrat myself," and this trying to bring more people in, you dominate the center, and then you try to add to it from either side. Trump's not the only one who's saying, "Uh, the heck with that. "I'm just gonna try to get the vote count up on my base." You tell me what you see, but I can't see any other explanation for what the Democrats are doing right now.
Bill Barr: Correct.
Peter Robinson: They're doubling down on this progressive, woke agenda. I mean, somebody wrote the other, Kyle Smith wrote the other day, "They're heading into the midterms like Thelma and Louise. "There's the cliff; let's floor it," but they must have consultants who are running the numbers, saying, "No, no, you can still pull this out "if you get up the vote among your base," right? So this is something new. This is my conjecture, something new in American politics. Even 15 or 20 years ago, wouldn't have made any sense at all, but now they have the technology to know, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, house-by-house, who's with us, who's against us, and once we get that information, we can start testing messages that'll drive these people to the polls. Is that what's going on?
Bill Barr: I think that's what was going on, but I also think it has become self-defeating because of another thing that's been going on, which is the the radical shift of the Democratic Party to the far left, the lurch to a radical stance. That creates a huge opportunity for the Republican Party, and the right posture for the Republican Party, at this stage, is to build the broadest coalition because this idea that, "Okay, we're drawing a line in the sand. "It's gonna be a bipolar world, "and there's no, take-no-prisoners kind of thing," you end up with no one being able to muster a commanding majority, and it's a stalemate, and it's trench warfare with all the antipathy that we have in our system today. What we need is a breakthrough, the way Ronald Reagan broke through in 1980, and the ground is set for that because we can bring together a lot of, we can bring together the working class, the middle class, the rural vote, the college-educated suburban people who've traditionally gone Republican and independent, and classical liberals who are just nauseated by the totalitarian behavior of the left, and that's the kind of coalition that has to be built because that gives you the commanding majority to make America great again, and-
Peter Robinson: To coin a term.
Bill Barr: Yeah, but part of the other thing here is Republicans have to wrap their heads around the idea that we're a working-class party now, and a lot of the working class and middle class resent the elites because they felt the elites accommodated the progressives and were willing to embrace their policy 'cause they could pay their way out of the consequences. They can make the system still work for them. The people who are getting screwed were the middle class, and so they do want a fighter. They like Trump, yeah.
Peter Robinson: Bill, there's a passage in here in which you describe Trump... He calls you upstairs to the residence, and he asks you about your experience with George H. W. Bush, a man whom you revere, as do I, as does everyone who knew him and worked with him. All right, and Trump said, "Yeah, but "he was responsible for his political fate "because he let himself be walked on "and walked on by the press. "Not me. Not Donald Trump."
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: I fight back. He was onto something there, wasn't he?
Bill Barr: I think he was onto it in the sense that the Republicans were slow on the uptake and have pandered to the elites, the media elites, the entertainment elites, and so forth, when, in fact, those groups are just extensions, partisan extensions of the Democratic Party, and to be accepted by them is no great accomplishment. In fact-
Peter Robinson: It is no honor.
Bill Barr: It's no honor, and so I think Trump was onto that, and I think that Republican Party has to be onto it, and part of what's happening in our culture and our politics is a lot of business executives and others, they don't wanna be... People turn up their eyebrows at the country, when they see them at the country club because of some position they've taken, and so it's that social acceptance in certain elite circles that, I think, part of the Republican constituency is upset about. It's like you-
Peter Robinson: Could I? How do you think of yourself? You grew up... I mean, there's a way to read your biography, this autobiography, "Oh, you know, "that's a pretty fancy upbringing. "He says they didn't... "All the boys shared one bedroom. "It was a small apartment," or two, I can't remember-
Bill Barr: One bathroom.
Peter Robinson: One bathroom.
Bill Barr: Six of us, one bathroom.
Peter Robinson: Six of you, one bathroom.
Bill Barr: That's where we learned democracy.
Peter Robinson: Learned how to negotiate.
Bill Barr: Yeah, yeah, right.
Peter Robinson: But on the other side, on the other hand, your dad is a professional academic. You all went to a very good... It was a Catholic school, but it was a very good, rigorous education you received. On to Columbia, attorney general at a very young age, big-time job in... In other words, you look pretty elite to me, but I don't think that's the way you think of yourself.
Bill Barr: Well, it's not the way I think of myself, and it's not the way we were raised or who I am. I have the resume of someone in the elite class, essentially, but when I drove down to Washington the day after I got married and started at the CIA and went to night school, I didn't know anyone in Washington, zero, no connections, and so I carved out a career in D.C., but our family was always brought up that don't go along with the herd. Don't... Think things through. Make sure that... Don't just adopt views like you're taking something off the rack in a clothing store. Think things through and make sure you understand what you say you believe, and there was a bit of a-
Peter Robinson: I'm also, I think I would not have wanted to cross your mom.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: There is a story in there that you tell about you had some new baseball equipment, and some neighborhood toughs stole it from you, and you went back to the apartment and told your mother, and she stormed right outta the apartment and found those kids. Well, there's-
Bill Barr: Well, they were like 16, 17, and I was like eight, but-
Peter Robinson: Oh, she took on... Didn't realize... I didn't remember that detail.
Bill Barr: Yeah, they were, yeah, yeah.
Peter Robinson: She took on some big kids, and she took 'em. She got them to give that stuff back. Okay, the point I'm trying to make here is Trump shoulda listened to you. You understand the elite because that's the world you move in now, but there's something pretty basic about your upbringing, and furthermore, I mentioned your mother for this reason, you appreciated a fighter. You appreciate a fighter-
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: Right?
Bill Barr: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: How is it? Let me ask another question about Trump. How is it that this guy, who's born rich, now, it's Queens instead of Brookline, maybe, and his father's a pretty gritty, tough businessman. Fine, but Donald Trump is born rich. He goes to Penn. It's the Ivy League. He had every opportunity to buy himself, well, he did, of course, buy himself buildings in the end, but to move into Manhattan, and he had the money to become smooth, to become a kind of an elite figure himself, and instead, there's really none of that in Donald Trump.
Bill Barr: No, he has a huge chip on his shoulder. I don't know where it comes from. I can't psychoanalyze the guy.
Peter Robinson: That's what I was kinda hoping you'd do.
Bill Barr: Well, I don't know what brought that about. For him, loyalty is a one-way street. He wants people to be personally loyal to him, but he's not loyal to anybody, just the person who can help him at the moment, and once they no longer useful, they're flushed away. I can't think of anybody who isn't essentially servile to him in the sense that they completely dependent on him financially, who has a durable relationship with him. They just don't exist as far as I-
Peter Robinson: Steve Mnuchin? The treasury secretary?
Bill Barr: I mean, they have a professional relationship, but-
Peter Robinson: I see, yeah, so I'll stick with Trump for a moment. You write that the way he ran the administration reminded you of a kind of permanent card game in your fraternity at Columbia. Explain that.
Bill Barr: Well, actually, there were good and bad sides to this, but-
Peter Robinson: And you write that when it was going well, it was actually kinda fun.
Bill Barr: It was fun, and actually, very efficient, and you could get things done, and I give him some credit for being very available. Now-
Peter Robinson: So what you mean is he sets up in that little sort of dining room off the Oval Office-
Bill Barr: Right, and it was like a constant revolving cast of characters, and you could never really figure out when one meeting began and one ended and another began. It was just, and I said in my fraternity, there was always a card game going on in this room, but you never could really tell-
Peter Robinson: Who was about to go to bed and who was just arriving.
Bill Barr: Yeah, right.
Peter Robinson: Right, okay.
Bill Barr: And that's the way it was in the Oval Office or in that little side room, and he was very available to his cabinet secretaries, and-
Peter Robinson: And when things between you and Donald Trump were at their best, what was he like? Was there charm there?
Bill Barr: He can be very charming when he's getting his way, when he thinks things are going his way, he can be very charming. It's a very, when he sort of goes out of his way to stroke someone in order to cultivate a relationship, he'll do that a lot, but it's very transparent what's happening. Anyone with any sense will see exactly what's going on.
Peter Robinson: All right.
Bill Barr: There's that famous clip of Comey walking over to him in a White House office, and Trump puts his arm around him and whispers in his ear. This is right at the beginning of the administration, and he whispered, "I'm looking forward to working with you." Well, Comey knew what the score was. No one was deceived by that.
Peter Robinson: Got it, all right, okay. This brings us to the painful stuff. I'm kind of trying to put it off here, but we gotta deal with the election of 2020. "One Damn Thing After Another": "The election was not stolen. "Trump lost it. "The data suggested to me "that the Democrats had taken advantage of rule changes, "especially extended voting periods and voting by mail, "but it is one thing to say "that the rules were unfairly skewed; "it is another to say "that the outcome was the result of fraud," close quote. This is a very crude way of putting it, but is it fair to say something like the Democrats stole the election legally? That those rule changes that were taking place using COVID as a pretext for a whole year before the actual election, that that was where the action was.
Bill Barr: Yeah, I think the Democrats used COVID as an excuse to skew the playing field towards themselves. One of the problems here is that people are mushing together three different concepts.
Peter Robinson: All right.
Bill Barr: One is the rules you're gonna go by. Are you gonna have mail-in ballots? Are you gonna really enforce deadlines? Are you gonna allow ballots that come in late and all that kinda stuff? And they made those rules. They were not adequately fought by the Republicans. They got in place. Once those rules are set, you're stuck with those rules unless you've challenged them in court and won, and that can be unfair, but that's not illegal.
Peter Robinson: Lee Atwater and Jim Baker would've known that they had to put together a first-class legal team at least a year before the election and start contesting these rule changes.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: Is that correct?
Bill Barr: That's correct, and every-
Peter Robinson: And Trump never even... He was advised to do that and just ignored it.
Bill Barr: Right, that's my experience, and then, the second set of things are rules that are meant to protect against fraud, such as anti-harvesting rules where someone goes around and collects ballots and then drops them in the ballot box or observers from both parties in the polling station. Those are meant to protect against fraud. If those are violated, that's bad. Person who violates them should be punished, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the votes are automatically thrown out.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bill Barr: You still have to show that the votes are illegal votes. I do think that there was harvesting going on where it shouldn't have been going on. I don't think it's at the magnitude people are suggesting, and I frankly don't think it affected the outcome, but the point is by the time, once the election is held and over, it's hard to go back and cure that. The third thing is fraud. That is where people who are dead vote, people who aren't qualified, their votes counted. You put in false votes, or you take out good votes and suppress them. There was no evidence of that, and yet, from the very beginning, from when he went downstairs from the residence, he started talking about fraud, major fraud underway, and all the stories they came up with at the beginning, dozens of them, initially, we were playing like Whac-A-Mole. Okay, what's the fraud of the day? Okay, it's the Dominion machines. Okay, it's this suitcase-
Peter Robinson: And when you say they came up with, you're talking about Rudy-
Bill Barr: Giuliani and his crowd. Okay, the suitcase in Fulton County, the truck driver from Bethpage to Harrisburg, and they would come up with this stuff, rank examples of fraud, but they were all false. They were looked at. They were nonsense. They still repeat it to this day. I was shocked because on January 13th of this year, the president was interviewed by NPR. He walked off the set, but he was challenged by the interviewer: "What is an example of the fraud?" Now, you would've thought after all this time he could think of his best shot, and he said, "More people voted in Philadelphia "than there are voters." Now, that was trotted out like one or two weeks after the election. It's totally false, totally false. The turnout in Philadelphia was actually a little bit lower than the average turnout in the state of Pennsylvania.
Peter Robinson: Okay, so we've gotta come up to January 6th, of course, but you resigned beforehand. You resigned on December 14th. Now, there's a meeting in which... Excuse me. In "One Damn Thing," you tell the story much better that I'm about to, but you're coming to all the conclusions that you just described: There's no fraud. He's lost this thing, and he didn't need to lose it, which makes it even worse, but that's not a question for me as attorney general. The question is, is there? No, there's no fraud, for goodness sake, and the White House keeps saying fraud, fraud, fraud, so you give an interview to the press and say, "We haven't found any."
Bill Barr: We haven't found evidence to date that it was-
Peter Robinson: To date.
Bill Barr: Sufficient to change the election.
Peter Robinson: And then you have an encounter, person-to-person encounter in that office off the Oval Office-
Bill Barr: The president-
Peter Robinson: in the West Wing, and what did Donald... Just describe that encounter.
Bill Barr: Well, I was in the White House for another meeting. I knew there would be a day of reckoning for what I said to the AP, and he called me down, and he was livid, and he challenged me, and I said that, "These claims that you were, "are making are just BS. "We've been looking at them, and they're nonsense, "and you keep on shoveling this stuff out there," and I said, "Furthermore, your legal team, once you... "You have Giuliani and crowd there." I said, "It's a clown show," and I said, "No respectable lawyers are willing to come in "and support you with that crowd there," and I told him specifically the Dominion thing was nonsense, and I went through a few of them, and he got more and more irate, and I said, "Look, I know you're unhappy with me. "I'm happy to tender my resignation," and he slammed the table and said, "Accepted!" And I said, "Okay," and I started walking out, and I got to my vehicle in the FBI detail, and I was in the car leaving, and all of a sudden, people started pounding on the windows. This was at night, and he had sent the counsel and another lawyer to retrieve me, and, "He didn't mean that. "He's not firing you," but two weeks later, I decided it would be best for me to leave. He wasn't listening to advice. He was meeting privately and intensely with these people from outside that I thought had no judgment, and the crowd that everyone knows their names now, and I thought, "Well, look, I mean, he's entitled "to take advice from who he wants to take advice from, "but if he's not listening to me, "I don't see a reason for me to stay around," and on December 14th was the day the Electoral College met and cast their votes, and there were no disputed votes in the sense that there was no... States didn't have alternative slates and so forth, so under the law, that was essentially irreversible, so I figured, okay. I tendered my resignation.
Peter Robinson: All right, January 6th. You're now a private citizen again, watching this on television the way we all watched it. At a rally at the Ellipse, President Trump urges his supporters to march to the Capitol.
Bill Barr: Right here, we're gonna walk down to the Capitol.
Peter Robinson: To, his words, "Stop the steal." Thousands do march to the Capitol, and scores of them break in. There's a melee. Deaths are involved. One protestor is shot by a Capitol policeman. Four other deaths, we know, it now looks as though one cop had a stroke, that the other four deaths are of natural causes, but causes that occur under stress, so five people die that day. He leaves office. He's impeached all over again, and the charge is, quote, "incitement of insurrection." The vote in the Democratic-controlled House is 232 to 197. The Senate then acquits him, although this time, the number is up from the first impeachment. 57 senators vote guilty and only 43 vote not guilty. It would've taken 2/3 of the Senate.
Bill Barr: 2/3.
Peter Robinson: 67 votes to convict him. All right, did Donald Trump, quote, "incite an insurrection," end quote?
Bill Barr: No. Because of our First Amendment, people are giving broad latitude to speak, and the standard for incitement to violence is very high. It has to be very explicit, and from what I saw, I mean, maybe things we're happening behind the scenes I'm not aware of, but from what I'm aware of, I don't think he incited violence.
Peter Robinson: All right, by the way, did you take a position on whether it makes any sense to incite a, I beg your pardon, to impeach a former federal official?
Bill Barr: I never took a position on it, but I was skeptical of that, and so I don't think they should have impeached him a second time, but I, at the same time, I felt, although he wasn't legally responsible, I felt he was morally responsible for what happened. He led this crowd to believe there was something they could do up on Capitol Hill to change things, and also, he really made Vice President Pence the bad guy, and you have to go up there and essentially intimidate Pence to do the right thing. If he does the right thing, we can turn this around, so he sicced a mob on the Capitol and Pence and the Congress.
Peter Robinson: It may not have risen to the technical definition of incitement.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: But he did it; he sicced them on the Capitol.
Bill Barr: And they were clearly included in that. Most of those people were peaceful, in fact, and didn't go in, but there was clearly a crowd there that was looking for a fight. They were dressed for combat, and they attacked the police and so forth. They should be arrested and prosecuted, people who used force to gain entry.
Peter Robinson: We'll return to Donald Trump to close things up in just a moment, but one of the themes that runs all the way through this book, there's a real sweetness in the way you write about growing up in New York in the '50s and '60s and so forth, and I don't think it's just the sweetness of someone looking back on a happy childhood, although that would be a nice thing to read about, but the way, the New York in which you grew up, coming of age under Ronald Reagan, coming of political age under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, you're describing a lost world. Then you get to the... We go from the early life of Bill Barr to Bill Barr as second time as attorney general, and it's, in all kinds of ways, almost unrecognizable, and...
Bill Barr: You mean the world.
Peter Robinson: The world is almost unrecognizable, so one of themes here is the collapse of journalism. We've already talked about the Russiagate, that the press was overwhelmingly against Trump, even though there was nothing there. They should have been suspicious of that dossier. In fact, you make the point that up until he was elected, they were suspicious of the dossier.
Bill Barr: Right.
Peter Robinson: Then he's elected. Comey pulls his funny stuff. They drop their-
Bill Barr: Skepticism.
Peter Robinson: journalistic skepticism. All right, Hunter Biden's laptop. Twitter suppresses the story, bans the "New York Post" from Twitter, bans anybody, or blocks anybody who tries to link to the "New York Post" story, and now we come to this couple years later, even the "New York Times" admits that the story was true. That was Hunter Biden's laptop, and all the garbage that's on that laptop was his.
Bill Barr: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: Okay.
Bill Barr: Which was essentially self-evident at the time.
Peter Robinson: Of course it was.
Bill Barr: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: Okay, so it used to be that you could at least count on the press to go after a story. That was a huge story. The son of a major presidential candidate, part of what's going on there is a very sad and upsetting life the guy is leading. He's using drugs and garbage of all kinds is on that, but part of it is he's talking about deals he did with his uncle, and he's clearly engaging, in my opinion, in influence peddling, so number one, was that your opinion? And number two, what the heck has happened to the press in America where you can't even count on them to go after a story?
Bill Barr: Yeah, well, regardless of whether there's criminality involved in that stuff, there clearly was shameful influence peddling and cashing in on the office and so forth, but I think if our republic goes down, I think one of the chief culprits will be the mainstream media. They have become a completely corrupted institution. They are essentially an extension of the progressive movement, and I think that this is partly because they've always been, leaned left and been Democrat, but I think it's gone further than ever before because there's no allegiance to truth. In fact, I think they basically don't accept that there is such a thing as truth. There's only narratives because their world is in this progressive mindset that reality is this meta-historical struggle, and they are part of that. They are agents of change. They are part of the progressive movement, and there is no objective truth; it's just a narrative, and my narrative is as good as your narrative. It's the way I perceive the world. The stories are written, essentially, as soon as a thing happens, this is their narrative that they're gonna adopt.
Peter Robinson: So there's another thing that runs through the book, although you're a little lighter, you do this one with a lighter touch, and it's understandable because this is friends of yours and institutions you respect, but it's the corruption of law enforcement and intelligence. Hunter Biden laptop story. In October, just three weeks before the election, more than 50 former intel officials sign a letter that dismisses the laptop story with the claim that it had, quote, "All the classic earmarks "of a Russian disinformation program," close quote, and this list includes former CIA directors John Brennan, Leon Panetta, and General Michael Hayden. As far as I can tell, not one of the 50 has apologized or retracted his judgment that it represents Russian disinform. They've just clammed up now that even the "New York Times" admits that the story was true. Donald Trump was attacked for attacking institutions and for decrying a deep state, and the argument was that he was making impossible for good civil servants to do their job, but why should Americans trust these people?
Bill Barr: Well, they shouldn't. These institution, the media, I just wanna say, is thoroughly corrupt, but all our institutions are going down the same road. It's not just the FBI. People say, "How do we fix the?" I say, "The FBI may be the least of the problems," and when you actually look at the government across the board, our government institutions, our professions, the medical profession, science is becoming corrupted. By that, I mean that the truth of science is subordinated to political objectives, and the legal profession is becoming thoroughly corrupted. All of these institutions are being corrupted this way, so it's a monumental task we have to retrieve honesty in all of them. The episode you were mentioning, that was a crass, political, partisan move on the eve of the election. No professional person who was approaching it as a professional would've put out anything like that. They hadn't seen this stuff. They had no basis for reaching a judgment about Russian disinformation, and they hurried out this letter, quickly put it together, got it out before the election in order to blunt interest in the laptop. It was just a, it was a partisan maneuver, but that is now par for the course. Very few people you can trust anymore.
Peter Robinson: All right. Bill Barr and his critics. Here's Katie-
Bill Barr: I have critics?
Peter Robinson: I'm sorry to tell you. Katie Benner of the "New York Times," this is shortly after you resigned, "Barr brought the Justice Department "closer to the White House "than any attorney general in half a century. "Barr made decisions that dovetailed precisely "with Mr. Trump's wishes "and demands of his political allies," close quote. You were a toady. Here's Blake Masters. This is a venture capitalist now running for the Senate as a Republican in Arizona, and he puts up a tweet just after "One Damn Thing After Another" comes out: "If Bill Barr had done his job in 2020, "President Trump would be in the Oval Office today, "and the world wouldn't be falling apart. "Instead, Barr was off planning "his fake tabloid-tier gossip book. "Shameful," close quote.
Bill Barr: Who said that?
Peter Robinson: Blake. Blake, oh, you wanna know the name on that one?
Bill Barr: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: Blake Masters, who is... Set this aside, he's a, in my experience, a good guy. He's a Stanford venture capitalist, worked with Peter Thiel. He's running for the Senate, running for the GOP nomination for the Senate in Arizona, and he put up that tweet, so to the "New York Times"-
Bill Barr: Has he been endorsed by Trump?
Peter Robinson: Not yet.
Bill Barr: Well, I think a lot of those people have been willing to say things like that in order to try to curry favor with Trump, but he doesn't have a basis for saying that, but if you're gonna ask me to respond to that-
Peter Robinson: Yeah, well, no, I mean, what I'm saying is the mainstream media says you were a toady, and then, people, Blake Masters, I don't know what he's thinking. He may very much like to get an endorsement from Donald Trump. I don't know, but certainly, there's a Trump camp that says, "No, actually you were a traitor. "You weren't a toady; you were a traitor." How do you handle all this? How does your wife handle all this? How does your family handle all this?
Bill Barr: Well, that's the wife issue.
Peter Robinson: This is rough.
Bill Barr: Well, she didn't want me to go in precisely because of this kind of environment we live in, but I didn't really care what people said when I was AG because I felt that in this environment, the only way you can do your job is not to worry about the impacts on you down the road. We now live in a world where personal destruction is used as a means of enforcing ideology, and people are worried about being, having their careers ruined, and if you administer the criminal justice process with that fear, you're gonna be pushed around and bullied by people, and I'm not gonna be bullied by Trump, Congress, or editorial boards or journalists. I'll do what I think is right. That's how I approached the job. Now, I just point out that they had the, they started calling me a toady from day one when they saw that I wasn't gonna go along with this Russiagate nonsense, and when you actually ask for a bill, like so much else in the liberal world, you ask for the bill of particulars, what exactly are you talking about? First, what do you mean I'm closer to the White House. The fact is, the president and I didn't talk about criminal cases. Did I go after his enemies? Which of his enemies did I go after? Which of his enemies did I go after? Zero. I mean, none have been indicted, and then, the other one, then, they always come back to Stone.
Peter Robinson: Roger Stone.
Bill Barr: Roger Stone, where all I said was, "We're not gonna, "where line prosecutors who had worked for Mueller "were seeking a penalty imprisonment three times longer "than what is normally given to someone in that position," and I said, "Look, he's not gonna get any favors from me "because he's a friend of the president, "but he's not gonna be treated any more harshly," and so I said, "We'll leave it up to the judge." I thought it should be around 3 1/2 years. The judge gave him 3 1/2 years. That means I'm a toady?
Peter Robinson: And what do you say to the Trump people? Here's the argument from the Trump people: look, COVID, he didn't... Who would've known anything different about COVID? But you've got those three years when he stood down this relentless and groundless attack, got control of the... You give him credit for item after item after item, and you were over there indulging yourself in a dispassionate, just sense of administration, when, in fact, you should have been on his side because he was fighting for the whole... Right? Do you see? You know the argument.
Bill Barr: Well, I-
Peter Robinson: What do you say to that?
Bill Barr: Well, say, number one, most of the people who say that have not exerted themselves off, or really exerted themselves, or put themselves on the line in supporting Trump. I did. I gave up a lot to go in to try to help this administration, a lot more than any of these critics. Number two...
Peter Robinson: Wait a minute, I just better be explicit for listeners. You surrendered what would've been good money.
Bill Barr: Millions.
Peter Robinson: Got it. Okay.
Bill Barr: And so I, not just money, but a way of life with my grandchildren, my family, that I had been working for for quite a while. I didn't wanna go in and do this, but I felt he was not being treated fairly, and I wanted to give his administration its due, and I supported these policies, and I know many people think that my role in the administration helped stabilize it at a critical period, but the criminal justice process can't be used as a political tool, no matter how righteous the cause. No one wanted him to win more than me, but I wasn't gonna allow the criminal justice process to be converted into a political tool to help him and rush out prosecutions as a political ploy because loyalty, loyalty is ultimately to the Constitution. Loyalty is not personal political loyalty to Trump. Political things, I've been loyal. I supported the president, but when it comes to my obligations to enforce the rule of law, to say that I was disloyal because I followed the law is an absurdity.
Peter Robinson: All right. A little bit more on Donald Trump. "One Damn Thing After Another": "Donald Trump has shown neither the temperament "nor the persuasive powers "to provide the kind of leadership that's needed. "His political persona is too negative for the task ahead. "It's time to look forward." A Harris Poll this month, Republican voters were asked whom they would like to see nominated for president in 2024. Donald Trump, 58%. The runner-up, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, 13%. What are you gonna do if this guy runs again and wins the nomination?
Bill Barr: So I've already said and have been excoriated and made the liberals minds blow up or heads explode when I said, "Look, if he ends up as the nominee, "I can't foresee not supporting him, "that is, supporting the Democrat over him "because I think the threat to the country "that is the most serious is the progressive agenda, "and although I think Trump "is not the right person to lead us forward, "I would support him over any Democrat "that I can imagine being nominated "by the Democratic Party."
Peter Robinson: Okay. Last couple questions. We'll set Donald Trump aside. Couple of questions about the country, just in closing here.
Bill Barr: Mm-hmm, sure.
Peter Robinson: 1973, Roe; 1992, Casey. There is an argument that those decisions, those Supreme Court decisions, introduced a poison into our politics from which we have been suffering for almost half a century now. If the court, if this leaked Alito opinion suggests that the court is about to overturn Roe versus Wade, and we're in decision season, typically, the big decisions get handed down in June. As you and I sit here today, we're just a couple of weeks from when we may find out for certain if the Alito decision or, if the Alito draft or something like it is what the court hands down in a couple of weeks, and five justices stick with it, what effect will that have on the general temper of American politics? Is this, of course, there will be some period of insanity likely, right? But over the longer term, does this address a certain fever?
Bill Barr: I think it could be the road back to some sanity in our system because one of the basic problems has been the destruction of our federal system, decentralization of power, and hence, the federal system was meant to be a release valve on pressures that can build up in society because you allow diversity of approaches.
Peter Robinson: Utah gets to do something different from New York.
Bill Barr: Right, yeah, and the people in Alabama aren't made to do something they don't agree with, and the people in California can do what they wanna do, and that is a safety valve, and what happened with Roe 'cause I think you're absolutely right, and other things, has been this effort since the '60s and '70s to have one consolidated decision made for the whole country, one-size-fits-all rule. It's Armageddon battle because the stakes are so high. This is gonna be the rule for everybody. We need one-size-fits-all rule made in Washington, and I think we have to get back to federalism. We have to allow diversity in our country, and we have to focus the federal government on the few things it can actually do well. Right now, the federal government's trying to be all things to all people, and it's a completely incompetent operation. Hardly does anything well.
Peter Robinson: All right, last question. Again, this comes to mind because of this... It's a memoir of two worlds, it almost seems. The United States in the 1970s. You're old enough to remember this. You came of age under Reagan and Bush. In the 1970s, we got economic stagnation, a collapse of national morale with the defeat in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal and erosion of our position in the Cold War. The Soviets build their coastal fleet into a blue-water navy, and they establish a presence in Africa and Central America, and on it goes. The 1980s, tax cuts, an end to inflation, and the beginnings of an economic expansion that will last for a quarter of a century, a rebirth of patriotism, a renewed willingness to stand up to the Soviets. From 1979 to 1989, just one decade, we went from the national humiliation of the Iranian hostage crisis to victory in the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall. In other words, in one single decade, we get an American restoration so dramatic that it changes world history. Is this country capable of another restoration?
Bill Barr: I think we are, and if we're not, then I don't see what the source of any hope is for the future. Our problems are huge, and I say to people, it won't be a complete answer. More has to be done, but there can be no answer without a decisive victory analogous to the Reagan revolution and his victory in 1980 and what that meant for the country, and that's why we have to stop this trench warfare and exploiting the polarization of the country. You know, a lot of people benefit from the polarization in fundraising and so forth, and we have to try to build a coalition, as you say, the way politics has been in the past was you wanna win with the biggest majority you can so you can implement your program, and we have to get back to that, and that's why I say that Trump performed a very important historical role in 2016 by preventing us getting pushed over the cliff, but in terms of really putting us on a new course, he is not the person to unite the party. He's not the person to deliver that victory. I wish a lot of his supporters that are blindly loyal to him as a person start asking themselves is it all about just punching back and feeling good? Feeling good that you've hit the man or hit the system that you don't like and are very frustrated over? How do we make the permanent changes and get ourselves on the right track? What will it take? As you know, when Reagan came in, he had a whole program ready to go.
Peter Robinson: It was ready to go.
Bill Barr: Binders and binders of this is what we have to do and a whole laundry list of things to turn things around, and he did turn things around. Liberal was a dirty word, and the other thing is it forced the Democrats. The Democrats came in with a centrist, Bill Clinton, who reformed welfare, who passed tough crime bills. They had to move to the middle, so that's what we... I think if we can get to that point again, we could have a bright future, and I think the opportunity is there. The Democrats have overplayed their hand just the way they did in the '60s and '70s. They went too far to the left, and they've gone too far to the left now, and that creates an opportunity, running against that.
Peter Robinson: Ron DeSantis, Tom Cotton, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Rick Scott. If Donald Trump doesn't run, there's talent.
Bill Barr: Absolutely, and younger talent. I mean, we've had four Baby Boom presidents in a row, and then we went back to someone even pre-Baby Boom, Biden. I mean, give me a break. It's time for... We have talent in this country. It's time to move on.
Peter Robinson: All right, William P. Barr, 77th and 85th attorney general of the United States. There was one other attorney general who served two-
Bill Barr: John J. Crittenden in the mid-1840s and in 1850.
Peter Robinson: But you're the only attorney general to have served in-
Bill Barr: Two different centuries.
Peter Robinson: Two different centuries, two different centuries.
Bill Barr: And also-
Peter Robinson: Two different millennia.
Bill Barr: Yeah, I mean, it was a big gap, 25 years.
Peter Robinson: All right, William P. Barr, 77th and 85th attorney general of the United States and author of "One Damn Thing After Another: "Memoirs of an Attorney General," and this book is distinguished in the following sense: I believe it is the only book interview I've done where my wife loved the book as well.
Bill Barr: Oh, that's great.
Peter Robinson: Thank you.
Bill Barr: Thank you. Thank you, Peter.
Peter Robinson: For "Uncommon Knowledge," the Hoover Institution, and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson.