Not long before Attorney General William P. Barr released the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, he strategized with Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, about one of his next moves: investigating the investigators.
Over a dinner of steak, potatoes and carrots in a wood-paneled conference room off Mr. Barr’s Justice Department office, the two discussed their shared suspicions that the officials who initially investigated the Trump campaign’s links to Russia had abused their powers.
They strongly agreed, Mr. Graham said, that “maybe one of the most important things we’ll ever do is clean up this mess.”
Less than two months later, Mr. Barr began his cleanup with the most powerful of brooms: a presidential order commanding intelligence agencies to cooperate with his inquiry, and sweeping power to declassify and make public their secrets — even if they objected.
The move illustrates Mr. Barr’s swift rise in the pantheon of President Trump’s most prominent and loyal allies — and in the eyes of Mr. Trump himself. In a cabinet stocked with government neophytes and placeholders, the deeply experienced Mr. Barr is quickly emerging as the most influential figure in the second half of Mr. Trump’s term.
“He is the closest thing we have to Dick Cheney,” said Charles J. Cooper, a former senior Justice Department official, referring to President George W. Bush’s unusually powerful vice president. “He is a strong-willed man with a forceful personality” and “well-formed, deeply studied views.” [Continue reading…]