To hear the media tell it, Attorney General William Barr and his boss, President Donald Trump, are on the verge of breaking up. Or maybe Barr is acting as the president’s lapdog. It changes depending on the outlet and the hour.
But one thing seems almost certain: U.S. Attorney John Durham is wrapping up his investigation into the origins of the Russia collusion probe because the same narrative machine that kicked in to give us impeachment has now demanded that Barr testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee in March. And he’s agreed.
It stems from the absurd sentencing recommendation from some federal prosecutors in the case of Trump associate Roger Stone. They wanted the man locked up for almost a decade. Barr, recognizing that the appropriate sentence carried far fewer years, sent a request softening the recommendation, a decision he has said he made without consulting the president and before the president took to Twitter to thank Barr for handling what Trump saw as a continuation of the witch hunt against his administration and her associates.
That last part led to Barr’s frustration in an interview, admonishing that any public discussion of cases before the DOJ — from the White House OR THE MEDIA — makes it difficult for him to do his job. Now, of course, the House Democrats believe he’s “interfered” in Stone’s case on behalf of the president he just gently admonished and have demanded he testify before them.
This is likely to be a good thing because the story of exactly what Durham has been searching for — twisted and confusing though the reporting is — just broke in the New York Times (hint: part of it seems to be about whether or not then-CIA head Brennan was sharing information appropriately across intelligence agencies). And Barr can surely talk about that in late March during his testimony.
As an addendum: four of the federal prosecutors who had originally recommended Stone’s near-decade in jail for lying to Congress and witness tampering immediately quit their positions when Barr sent his revised recommendation.
There’s more here than there seems. And the impending release of the Durham investigation is quietly framing the drama.