Think twice about why the media attacks William Barr

Last week, Barr announced that Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney for Manhattan, was “stepping down” to make way for the appointment of Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton wanted to return to New York and expressed an interest in the position. Barr told Berman that he and President Trump wanted the two men to swap positions or Berman could take over the Justice Department’s Civil Division. Berman said he wanted to think about it, but Barr went ahead and announced the change.

Berman issued a public statement with a line strongly suggesting his removal was an effort to influence pending investigations of Trump associates. The media exploded, and various people called for the impeachment of Barr. Meanwhile, serious journalists such as Pete Williams confirmed sources as saying the move had nothing to do with those investigations. There has been no credible allegation that Barr has hampered those investigations since becoming attorney general, and he told United States attorneys in Manhattan to report any such interference to the Justice Department inspector general.

I personally do not agree that Clayton is the best choice for the spot. However, the substantive question is whether, as reported, Barr was trying to influence the Trump investigations. There is no evidence, but much coverage, to support that proposition.