When Bill Barr was appointed attorney general, I was hopeful. Impeccable credentials, long experience in law, not to mention a previous stint as attorney general, Barr was an obvious choice. He was also someone who, at least in his prior jobs, had never lost the respect of those who disagreed with him.
Perhaps, we thought — and I say we because it's what I thought, and I was wrong — he would be a stabilizing force; he would respect the department's independence and recognize that he is America's attorney general, not President Donald Trump's private solicitor.
Not so. He wasn't. He didn't. He acted as if he were representing the president in a clash with his adversaries. He did everything he could to derail special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and when that didn't work, he misled all of us, claiming the report cleared the president of any wrongdoing, which it most certainly did not.
The most important thing I teach my law students is not how to get away with doing things you really shouldn't do but how important it is to have your own moral compass. And to think about it in advance because in the moment a good lawyer can justify almost anything.
For the longest time, it seemed that Barr had checked whatever moral compass he might have had to keep Trump happy. In the months leading up to Election Day, he spun stories of potential fraud with the best of them and even told one interviewer that the United States would be "irrevocably committed to the socialist path" if the president lost.
For nearly a month after the election, Barr let Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani do all of the talking, which, of course, is what Rudy always wants. When Barr finally spoke out, it was to say that "we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election."
He spoke the truth. And he did the right thing in following Justice Department rules that you don't announce who you're investigating, because many investigations don't end with charges filed. So, Barr, bucking Republican acolytes in the department, did not announce that the Justice Department was investigating Hunter Biden. Not Joe Biden. Not Dr. Jill Biden. The adult son who may have taken a page from the playbook of Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, who have baldly used the presidency to advance the tottering Trump empire.
The letters between Barr and the president could have been written by Emily Post. Don't believe a word of it.
Barr lost his job because he did the right thing. He found his moral compass. And Trump doesn't allow for such things, having no moral compass himself.
Barr did not cost Trump the presidency. Trump managed to do that all by himself.
Susan Estrich is a lawyer and political commentator.