James Comey believes that Donald Trump has a singular gift for corrupting other people, and that William Barr fell prey to it:
It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged.... Mr. Trump pulls all of those present into a silent circle of assent.
From the private circle of assent, it moves to public displays of personal fealty at places like cabinet meetings. While the entire world is watching, you do what everyone else around the table does — you talk about how amazing the leader is and what an honor it is to be associated with him....
Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear....
... to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.
And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.
BooMan -- Martin Longman -- blames Fox News:
I think the simplest explanation is that [Barr is] just another example of an American whose brain has been rotted by consuming too much right-wing media. He’s defending Trump for the same reason that Fox News says he should be defended. Trump is a victim of a witch hunt—a plot to destroy him hatched by liberals and Obama holdovers in the FBI and Justice Department. I think he actually believes this, which would explain his behavior better than the theory that Trump corrupted his morals....
Watching cable news, I see a phalanx of former Justice Department officials who are somewhere between flummoxed and flabbergasted by Barr’s behavior. They can’t imagine what has happened to him. I think the answer is simple. He sat in his living room watching Sean Hannity and it destroyed his brain, his moral compass, and his potential worth as a public servant.
This is closer to the truth, but the rot began long before Hannity got a national TV gig. You could trace it as far back as Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, but it was certainly in place by the Reagan years, when Interior Secretary James Watt said, "I don't use the words 'Democrats' and 'Republicans.' It's 'liberals' and 'Americans.'" No one needed an explanation of that because a significant portion of the Republican electorate had arrived at the same conclusion -- that liberals (a term increasing used interchangeably with "Democrats") were congenitally disloyal to America. That's why they'd voted for Reagan, wasn't it?
The fiction that we all agreed on our common American-ness was still in force in those years, so this and other utterances by Watt were considered gaffes, and soon he was forced to resign. But the message wasn't very different from that of the president, and it was identical to the message of Rush Limbaugh, the man who effectively took over the leadership of the Republican Party after Reagan left office (despite the fact that Reagan's vice president had been elected president). Then there was Newt Gingrich (who declared total war on Democrats in the House), followed by Fox, and you know the rest.
Even as Democratic presidents and congressional leaders sought compromise and GOP buy-in, Republicans treated politics as a zero-sum game and a blood sport. Barr helped quash the Iran-contra scandal because he believed a generation ago that Republicans must prevail at all costs; he still believes that. He didn't need to spend time in rooms with Donald Trump to become who he is now -- it's the default mode for all Republicans.
Republished with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog