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The media has reluctantly accepted ex-attorney general Bill Barr as a vital factor in disproving former President Donald Trump’s election fraud claims, a notable flip after he spent much of 2019 and 2020 as Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of many liberals.
Barr told the Jan. 6 Committee that he felt Trump’s election-fraud claims were “bulls–t,” and called specific allegations “nonsense” and “crazy.” The testimony has been praised by the left, with some claiming he even made then-first daughter Ivanka Trump see the light that her father had truly lost.
This week, liberal pundits and network guests gave ample coverage to Barr’s testimony, touting him as a key witness in the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation into the 2021 Capitol riot.
The day after the much-hyped primetime airing of the committee hearing last week, MSNBC frequent contributor and lawyer Neal Katyal signaled that Barr’s testimony was devastating for Trump.
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“Most devastatingly, his own daughter [didn’t believe Trump’s claims] and said she agreed with Bill Barr, who called it bulls–t. And if Bill Barr knows about anything, he knows about bulls–t,” Katyal said.
That same day, CNN analyst and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said he thought Barr’s testimony was “very, very effective” in “puncturing the myth” of Trump’s voter fraud claims.
Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig also weighed in on Barr’s testimony during an appearance on MSNBC’s Wednesday broadcast of “Deadline: White House.”
[Barr’s] strength is – he knew in real time, sorry Donald, no chance,” Leonnig said, as host Nicolle Wallace nodded along.
But, the media’s acceptance of Barr’s testimony was far removed from the condemnation Barr received in the past. Network hosts and their guests frequently insinuated Barr was a liar and a “hack,” contorting himself to fit the former president’s narrative on the Russia investigation and other issues. Some even asked for Barr to be arrested, or at the very least disbarred.
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An analysis piece by liberal CNN reporter Stephen Collinson piece headlined, “William Barr’s stunning evolution from Trump loyalist to nemesis” depicted the “ultraconservative” Barr as forced into telling the truth.
“From villain to hero,” Collinson wrote. “Democrats once accused former Attorney General William Barr of lying to Congress and covering up Donald Trump’s corruption. They said he was more interested in serving as the ex-President’s attorney than the nation’s independent top law officer separated from the White House by an invisible wall. But it is a mark of the extreme choices Trump forces upon those who served him that the ultraconservative career lawyer now finds himself on the same side as his liberal onetime accusers in defending America’s democracy.”
The CNN column praised the man loathed by liberals for “dismembering the ex-President’s fantastical claims that he won the 2020 election.”
The mainstream media had a far different view of Barr only three years ago, regularly panning him for saying Trump’s campaign was spied on and for his memo declaring Special Counsel Robert Mueller failed to find any evidence of collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
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MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” namesake Joe Scarborough in 2019 dismissed Barr as someone who would “do anything for Donald Trump” and called him a “hack” before suggesting he should be disbarred for launching the Durham probe into the origins of the Russia investigation.
“He’s already committed perjury before Congress,” Scarborough said. “I’m surprised somebody hasn’t moved to disbar him because he really should be disbarred.”
“Morning Joe” regular Mike Barnicle once said Barr’s summary of the Mueller report “seriously misleads people.” So many liberal pundits and Democratic lawmakers attacked Barr over his summary that Mueller himself had to defend Barr.
“We appreciate that the Attorney General made the report largely public, and I certainly do not question the Attorney General’s good faith in that decision,” Mueller said in a rare press conference.
Barr was so loathed by the left in 2019 that Grabien Media founder Tom Elliott published a montage of media members calling for him to be thrown behind bars. CNN host Brianna Keilar, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and then-NBC reporter Kasie Hunt, who is now at CNN, all asked if Barr should go to jail for contempt because they wanted to see the full Mueller report.
Later that year, Scarborough said he believed Barr would be remembered as “the most corrupt Attorney General in the history of the United States of America.”
MSNBC’s Joy Reid wasn’t a fan of Barr in 2019, either, when she suggested he could have been connected to the death of Jeffrey Epstein because the facility where his body was found was under control of the Justice Department.
“This Department of Justice does not exactly inspire confidence, let’s just be blunt. William Barr’s Justice Department is not one that you can readily, simply rely upon and feel confident in, and so what do we make of all this now that in this federal facility, this person was allowed to be alone long enough to either harm himself or be killed? We don’t know what happened,” Reid told viewers.
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By 2020, Barr was criticized for condemning COVID-era stay-at-home orders and mask mandates as a “threat” to civil liberties.
“It seems to me that William Barr is searching so desperately to find a way to describe White Americans who refuse to wear masks as victims, that he’s reaching for comparisons that not only don’t make any sense, but reveal a kind of moral tone-deafness, that really reveals his character,” Princeton professor Eddie Glaude Jr. said on MSNBC.
That same day, Scarborough joked that Barr was “hoping to be able to draw large speaking fees in Russia in 2021.”