Clients can be a pain in the neck.
I have been such a pain when I’ve been a client. I know some of my clients have been thus to me when I was their lawyer.
So while the president is the classic “difficult client” — an individual who believes himself to have been deeply wronged and surrounded by evidence that the injustice done to them is undeniable and obvious — Attorney General William P. Barr is reprising a role every great, near-great or even long-serving lawyer has had to play: directing and guiding his client to be patient about, and have confidence in, the rule of law.
It’s the hardest task when a client is right about being wronged.
Barr went about that task publicly Thursday during an ABC News interview, reminding us once more of what he is: a brilliant lawyer and the equal of any attorney general who has held that office.
Some observers — particularly the prisoners of “the Narrative” that I wrote about earlier this week — thought Barr was rebuking the president. Instead, he was giving his most important client guidance while rebuking media elites. “I’m happy to say that in fact the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr said, making very clear that this was the key takeaway from his interview on Thursday. Key word in the key takeaway? “Never.”
As President Trump has not directed the attorney general about any ongoing criminal matter, its best to think about his tweets concerning the Justice Department generally and the Roger Stone case specifically as the president’s 280-character commentaries — just like this commentary — except for the fact that he can fire the attorney general and I cannot. I can cajole and applaud, criticize or cheer, but it’s all just commentary. All presidents deliver commentary on the Justice Department from time to time. They just do it privately.
Those who nurse the Narrative will not accept this, any more than they can accept the possibility that former president Bill Clinton had any other agenda in his mind than saying hello to then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch on the airport tarmac in Phoenix in the summer of 2016, at the very moment Lynch’s Justice Department was wrestling with the legality of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. And don’t get me started on the politicization of the department under Eric H. Holder Jr., who was once actually held in contempt of Congress.
So it always goes. There’s a view from within the Narrative about attorneys general depending on their party affiliation, and there’s a bigger, stronger, broader and far more inclusive view outside of that cohort of opinion-makers. The latter thinks Barr is a terrific defender of freedom and the Constitution, of the rule of law and of the Justice Department itself.
I think that broader view understands Barr’s comments as an attempt at client management. We shall see. But if your friends on the left tell you that Barr is anything other than a great attorney general and an honest and ethical one, committed completely to the Constitution, they are not telling you the truth.