Starting on election night 2020 and continuing until his last days in office, Donald Trump pulled the US along and took him to the point that his followers sacked the US Capitol for two weeks in his term gave. Axios takes you inside the fall of a speaker with a special chain.
Episode 4: Trump lit the torch on what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his cabinet.
Attorney General Bill Burr stood behind a chair In the private dining room next to the Oval Office, Donald Trump is hovering over. The chairman sat at the head of the table. It was December 1, almost a month after the election, and Barr gave some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president’s theories about the stolen election, Barr told Trump, were “nonsense”.
White House lawyer Pat Cipollon and some other colleagues in the room were surprised, Barr came out and said this – though they knew it was true. For good measure, the attorney general threw in a warning that the new legal team was betting on Trump’s “future”.
Trump dragged Barr to explain himself after watching an AP AP story on Twitter to explain himself, “Trump disputed, Brar says there is no widespread election fraud.” But Barr was not backing down. Three weeks later, he must have gone.
The relationship between the president and his attorney general was arguably the most consequential in Trump’s cabinet. And in the six months leading up to this meeting, the relationship between the two men was quietly shattered. No one was more loyal than Bill Barr. But for Trump, it was never enough.
The President was very frantic Even for his most loyal allies, increasingly listening to conspiracy theorists who echoed their own ideas and offered an illusion, an alternate reality.
By late summer of 2020, Trump and Barr were regularly at loggerheads over how to handle the protests of the rising Black Lives Matter, when George Floyd died while in police custody. As the national movement unfolded, some protests left a path of violence and looting. Trump wanted the US government to take stern action on the unrest.
The president wanted to implement the Rebellion Act and send the army to American cities. He needed soldiers in the street. He was liked by some staunch people from outside allies, including Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. The ungrateful job of pushing back fell on Barr.
Many times, Burr was the heat shield The two jointly met Chief of Staff Mark on Trump’s imaginations of American troops landing on Portland and raised strong objections between the president and the president, Defense Secretary Mark Graff.
The president regularly called a group of national security leaders to the Oval Office, and the meeting in mid-August was particularly volatile.
From the seat behind the Resolute Desk, an agitated Trump tells Barr to go and do it something, And to do it immediately – make an announcement, send in troops, some. Get on the bus and solve it, the president ordered. He wanted a devastating and provocative show of strength.
Hate hate. He thought that the heat in the protest was gradually decreasing. He clarified the law enforcement strategy and his opinion that military intervention would backfire. Federal investigators were already hunting for Ringalders in protests.
Also, Barr asked, what was the endgame for adding military to the mix? The Confederate Army may end up indefinitely in a city like Portland.
Trump became more and more frustrated, but Brar pushed vigorously, standing his ground in front of everyone in the room. He was ready, ready and able to be strong, he said. But, he said, we should also be considerate.
What will these soldiers do, Barr told. Just stand around and yell at? Trump did not care. We are looking weak and it hurts us, he said. Then he slammed his hand on the Resolute Desk.
“Nobody supports me,” Trump shouted. “Nobody gives me any fucking support.”
Trump wakes up and walks out of the Oval Office to his private dining room and leaves Barr and the others behind. Barr glanced at a red-faced White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and jokingly said, “Well that went well.”
Constant bending over how aggressive they must be was a serious bottleneck in the relationship. Trump particularly wanted to reduce the exposure of trauma and awe in Portland and Seattle.
Barr was not a pacifist, But he thought Trump’s ideas were more aggressive than necessary. He battled all summer, and Barr later privately compared the experience to “Groundhog Day”. It was always Groundhog Day trying to explain things to Trump.
Trump was keeping pace with the advice of experienced advisers like Barré and Cipollon and the growing coterie of outside instigators like Fitton who were steadily gaining momentum.
Publicly, Barr praised Trump. Personally, he suffered a head injury. By September, Barr was doing everything he could to avoid the president. There was little direct contact between the two men, and Barr stopped visiting Trump at the White House.
He was ill-prepared to make public statements of Trump and others to do so to increase pressure against US Attorney John Durham and put a report on the Russia investigation before the election.
By mid-October, as Rudy Giuliani was trying to publicize the alleged contents of Hunter Biden’s hard drive, Trump aides began pressuring Barr to appoint special counsel to investigate his opponent’s son . Ignorant of Trump, the Justice Department was already investigating Hunter Biden. But Barr kept the investigation a secret, keeping in mind the department’s policy.
Barr performed maneuvers so that he dealt mainly with Meadows and Cipollon. With the President’s constant thunder, both people could see that Barr was angry and disappointed.
It became easier to avoid Trump As the campaign warmed up. The president spent more time on the trail and less time in the Oval Office.
But after Election Day, Barr’s relief came to an end, as Trump extended pre-determined theories of electoral interference with an array of conspirators, arguing that Biden and the Chinese Communist Party, others, had asked him The election was stolen.
On November 29, Trump told Fox News that Barr’s Justice Department was “missing in action.” Barr was furious. In fact, the Attorney General had set the example of the department to speed up federal investigations into allegations of electoral fraud. The Justice Department was not missing in action – only there was no evidence of major fraud.
Barr gave an interview AP’s beat reporter, Michael Balasamo, made it clear on the record. This will bring things to a head.
As he led the White House to meetings on 1 December, Brar knew Belsamo’s story could go live while he was there. He soon found himself in the President’s private dining room, along with Meadows, Cipollon, Trump and others. Trump sat on a long table under a chandelier amidst the contradiction, which was made from floor-to-ceiling windows.
Trump was positioned in his usual seat at the head of the table, facing a huge flat-screen TV with sound on low. On screen, a US news network plotting a hearing on election fraud was playing the Michigan Senate.
Trump had seen Balsamo’s story, and he was crying. “Why would you say that? You should hate Trump. There is no other reason. You should hate Trump,” the president alleged, speaking about himself in the third person.
“These things are not excluded” Brar told the president, his chief would stand near Will Levy. “These stuff that people are filling your ears with is not true.” Barr explained that if Trump wanted to contest the election results, lawyers for the presidential internal campaign would have to do it.
The Justice Department, he continued, had noted major fraud allegations that Trump’s lawyers had made. “It’s just nonsense,” Barr told the president. Cipollon asked the DRJ to investigate these claims.
Trump pointed at the TV And asked if Barr was watching the hearing. Barr said he was not. “Maybe you should,” the president said. Barr reiterated that the Justice Department is not ignoring the allegations, but that lawyers outside of Trump were doing a terrible job.
He said, “I am a very legal expert and I cannot tell what the doctrine is.” “It’s just ugly. It’s all over the hill and gone.”
“Maybe,” Trump said. “Maybe.”
A week later, the New York Times reported that Barr was considering resigning. Barr’s relationship with the president was becoming unstable, and the president was listening to Sidney Powell and Giuliani instead of his White House counsel and attorney general.
Barr decides to step down Before their private skirmishes proceed to public view. Some speculate that he has dropped the increasingly questionable views of the president. But it had nothing to do with it. Barr had made it clear to Cipollon that he did not want to discuss the elections that followed. He did not need to hear about them until he received an official notice. The only pardon he attempted to foreclose for Edward Snowden.
On December 14, Trump and Barr met each other in the Oval Office. Trump was accompanied by others when the Attorney General arrived. Barr asked to clean the room so that they could speak privately. He cited the reason for ending his move early, saying that while they had good relations, they now disagreed on important matters.
He did not need a public blowup. It was time to leave while the departure may still be cordial. Barr later told colleagues that the meeting was calm and rational and wrote his resignation letter – which a day earlier praised the president for his policy achievements.
Trump praised Barr’s loyalty and admiration. But praise and loyalty were not enough.
On election fraud, Barr had told Trump what he did not want to hear and the president stopped listening. It was time for Barr to leave.
4 Listen to jonathan swan On Axios’ newly discovered podcast series, called “How It Happened: Trump’s Last Stand”.
Read the rest of the “off the rails” episode here.
About this series: Our reporting is based on numerous interviews with current and former White House, campaign, government and congressional officials, as well as direct eyewitnesses and people close to the president. Sources have been given anonymity for sharing sensitive comments or details that they will not be formally authorized to disclose. President Trump and other officials, by whom citations and actions have been attributed by others, were offered the opportunity to confirm, deny or react to reporting elements prior to publication.
“Off the Rail” is reported by White House reporter Jonathan Swan with reporting and research assistance by Zach Basu. It was edited by Margaret Talev and Mike Allen. Pictures by Sara Grillo, Ada Amer and Eniola Odetende.