“My take is that Barr hasn’t changed one bit, that he has had a healthy distance from the beginning,” one person close to the administration said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe Barr’s relationship with Trump. “He knows the parameters of the relationship between a president and an AG.”
Trump had a famously dysfunctional relationship with his first Senate-confirmed attorney general, Jeff Sessions. The president blamed Sessions for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether his campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election because – in the president’s view – Sessions’s recusal from that case allowed for Mueller’s appointment and everything that followed. Mueller, though, was appointed by the deputy attorney general at the time, Rod Rosenstein, weeks after Sessions recused himself.
Trump publicly and privately criticized Sessions for virtually his entire tenure in the top law enforcement job and toyed constantly with firing him. He finally did so after the 2018 midterm elections and nominated Barr as his permanent replacement. His resentment lingers to this day, and Sessions is expected to announce a run for his old Senate seat.
Though Barr was a relative outsider to Trumpworld when the president picked him as attorney general, he quickly won the president’s affection. In announcing Mueller’s principal conclusions – before Mueller’s final report had been issued – Barr declared that the special counsel had found insufficient evidence to allege coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. And while Mueller had not reached a determination on whether the president had obstructed justice, Barr said he had reviewed the case himself and determined that Trump had not.
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