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Bill Barr: Man in the Middle

Trump's protector Barr is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee now. Here's some background on him by Greg Olear, author of Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia.

Bill Barr: Man in the Middle

Courtesy of Greg Olear at PREVAIL

The AG occupies the nexus where the circles on the Venn diagram overlap.

WHEN HOLLOW MEN in positions of great power do terrible things, chances are, William Barr is there to lend a helping hand.

For the last half century, Barr has been part Forrest Gump, part Winston Wolf—uncannily adjacent to key people and events, and always ready, willing, and able to help cover up the mess. In the Venn diagram of said people and events, he is the nexus, the Man in the Middle. And like the model Catholic warrior in his warped view of that great religion, he will hold the line until he dies.

Let’s examine some of these key people and events to which Barr is connected:

Manhattan Prep School Sexual Abuse Scandals

Barr’s father, Donald Barr, a doctrinaire administrator who moonlighted as a sci-fi novelist, was from 1964-74 the headmaster at Dalton, a progressive co-ed prep school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The elder Barr was reportedly was kind of a prick, with a bad reputation. According to Noel Casler, he was known to students as “Chester the Molester.” That his sci-fi novel concerns a Donald Barr-like hero “forced” to have sex with minor girls for the purpose of sadism and procreation is as telling as it is creepy. How much, if any, sexual abuse Bill Barr was subjected to is impossible to know, of course. Barr did not even attend Dalton, but rather Horace Mann, a rigid all-boys prep school notorious for its own sexual abuse scandal. But whatever the younger Barr may have personally experienced, the abuse scandals were happening all around him. At home and at school, he was a product of that toxic culture, a culture that fostered…

Jeffrey Epstein

A 21-year-old college dropout with no relevant work experience, Epstein was hired by Donald Barr to teach mathematics at Dalton. Again, it may be purely a coincidence that this sex-trafficking, kompromat-gathering, arms-deal-money-laundering, Israeli intelligence procurer and con man was given his first important job by Bill Barr’s old man. But of all the headmasters in all the prep schools in all of New York City, Epstein was hired by Donald Barr.


Bill Barr went to work for the CIA very early in his career, after completing his Master of Arts in government and Chinese studies. He started there as an intern, working while he was in law school at George Washington. Although reportedly a suck-up and kiss-ass, he did well enough at the Agency to stick around, and to serve as legal liaison during the Watergate era. It was during his tenure at the CIA that he met…

George H.W. Bush

Barr met Bush in 1976, during the eventual president’s one year stint as Director of Central Intelligence. According to Frank Snepp, the CIA analyst-turned-Peabody-Award-winning-journalist, Barr

helped write the pap sheets that director Bush used to fend off the Pike and Church committees, the first real embodiments of Congressional oversight of the CIA. Intimates say the experience was for­mative for Barr, turning him into an impla­cable enemy of congressional intrusions on executive prerogative.

Years later, as Attorney General for Poppy Bush, Barr convinced his boss to issue a pardon to Caspar Weinberger, which had the result of shielding Bush I from his obvious complicity in…


This 1985-7 scandal involved the illegal sale of arms to Iran to finance the fight against Communism in Nicaragua. It made famous Lt. Col. Oliver North, his secretary Fawn Hall, and the “I don’t recall” defense used by both Reagan and Bush. But there was more at play. To move both the arms to Iran, and the money from Iran to Nicaragua, the intelligence community made use of networks provided by organized crime. “The scandal was that the Reagan Administration was skirting all oversight by doing all of this with illegal arms deals, criminal arms dealers and organized crime syndicates—and washing it all through the global mob’s bank,” Lincoln’s Bible says. Iran-Contra, she explains, is a turning point, a moment of intersection and cooperation between the intelligence community and organized crime—the confluence of mobsters and spies. During and after Iran-Contra, the former experienced a “glow up,” as the kids say; that’s when the Russian mafiya began its ascent into criminal superpower.

Barr wasn’t involved in the scandal itself, just the cover-up. In that first stint as AG, he also helped cover up alleged money laundering at the “global mob’s bank,” nicknamed…

Bank of Crooks & Criminals

…as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International was colloquially called. As the Washington Post reported in 1991:

BCCI made phony loans, concealed deposits, hid huge losses, and was the bank for a host of shady customers ranging from terrorists and spies to drug runners and dictators…

According to British authorities, BCCI committed fraud on a grand scale: keeping separate books for a "bank within the bank" that handled illegal transactions, making a $32 million payoff to silence one of its own managers, using clients' accounts to hide its own losses, and shuffling money among different affiliates to disguise the bank's true financial condition.

As AG, Barr slow-footed the investigation into the Bank of Crooks & Criminals to the point of stasis—subpoeanas were delayed, nothing seemed to be happening. He employed a similar tactic in “Iraqgate,” apparently to cover up malfeasance at the Rome-based Banca Nazionale del Lavoro. A single branch manager in Atlanta took the fall for what was almost certainly a much larger, more insidious scheme.

Money laundering, needless to say, and the cover-up of same, is a big deal to…

Donald John Trump

…his current boss, for whom he came out of retirement to serve as Cover-Up General Part Two: Unitary Executive Theory Boogaloo. Barr is now in the process of dismantling the republic for this longtime money launderer, who is fully owned by…

Transnational Organized Crime

Mobsters are the filthy criminals who need their dirty money cleaned. To be clear, Barr does not have a direct relationship with the Russian mob, as far as I can tell, but why would a sitting AG go out of his way to launder money…twice? Isn’t the head of the Justice Department supposed to, you know, not abet criminal activity? Unless he thought it served his true master, which we’ll call…

“The Crusaders”

Whether Bill Barr is Opus Dei is largely a question of semantics. With the judge-maker Leonard Leo, who gave us Brett Kavanaugh, Barr certainly served on the board of the Catholic Information Center, the Opus Dei stronghold on K Street, a few blocks from the White House. As such, he must have been influenced by the former head of that same Catholic Information Center, Father C. John McCloskey, an Opus Dei priest. McCloskey is singlehandedly responsible for recruiting a number of powerful Washington insiders to…well, if not Opus Dei proper, then to a radically conservative brand of Catholicism that is more Urban II than John XXIII. This is from a piece Charles P. Pierce wrote about “The Crusaders” for the Boston Globe in 2003:

There is a glow to the priest when he talks…He is talking about a futuristic essay he wrote that rosily describes the aftermath of a “relatively bloodless” civil war that resulted in a Catholic Church purified of all dissent and the religious dismemberment of the United States of America.

“There's two questions there,” says the Rev. C. John McCloskey 3d, smiling…“One is, Do I think it would be better that way? No. Do I think it’s possible? Do I think it’s possible for someone who believes in the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of family, over a period of time to choose to survive with people who think it’s OK to kill women and children or for—quote—homosexual couples to exist and be recognized?

“No, I don't think that's possible,” he says. “I don't know how it’s going to work itself out, but I know it’s not possible, and my hope and prayer is that it does not end in violence. But, unfortunately, in the past, these types of things have tended to end this way.

“If American Catholics feel that’s troubling, let them. I don’t feel it’s troubling at all.”

So, yeah: Crusaders. McCloskey and his followers are proponents of what Bill Barr, in his controversial speech at Notre Dame last year, called “the traditional moral order,” which is a euphemism for “hatred of the LGBTQ community, atheists, agnostics, Muslims, immigrants, and women.” Their extreme anti-abortion position represents a de facto war on women, and their extreme anti-euthanasia position is nothing short of sadistic. I went to Catholic Mass almost every Sunday for the first 18 years of my life, but I must have missed the part in the Gospels where Jesus was like, “God is merciful! To prove it, let’s keep the terminally ill alive as long as possible to maximize their pain and suffering.”

Oh, I almost forgot the best part…Father McCloskey, the prime mover behind all of this “traditional moral order” hokum, was removed from his position at the Catholic Information Center, and from TV sets everywhere, when he was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman involved with the Center. (This was not the first time he was booted out of a plum job). Opus Dei paid almost a million bucks to settle the case, and insists that the former priestly powerbroker now “suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. He is largely incapacitated and needs assistance for routine daily tasks. He has not had any pastoral assignments for a number of years and is no longer able to celebrate Mass, even privately.” The point is, the moral leader of Barr’s little group is a handsy man of the cloth who cost Opus Dei $977,000 because he couldn’t keep his mitts off a parishioner, and who in the aftermath of the scandal wound up banished from public life. Some guy!

Per Newsweek, among those in the McCloskey circle included the late SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia; current SCOTUS justice Clarence Thomas; shady former FBI Director Louis Freeh; the late conservative columnist Robert Novak, who outed the CIA officer Valerie Plame; Sam Brownback, the hapless former governor of Kansas; Lawrence Kudlow, now Trump’s economic adviser; and, as we assume from his position on the board, Bill Barr. Whatever eschatological hocus-pocus Father McCloskey may have subjected these guys to, none of them seem like exemplary human beings to me, although the biggest piece of shit in the D.C. Opus Dei circle was undoubtedly…

Robert Hanssen

The seditious FBI agent who was for years feeding intel to the KGB was connected via McCloskey and Opus Dei to Bill Barr. That doesn’t mean Barr himself is sympathetic to traitors to the country, of course—although his malefic second stint as AG suggests otherwise.

This is not an exhaustive list. I have not examined the many connections Barr must have made in the private sector, when he was a corporate attorney for GTE and Verizon, and when he served on the board of directors for Time Warner, nor have I delved into the relationships among his children, whom he has installed in positions of power in the Justice Department.

What it all means, I can’t say. But this much is clear: everywhere we poke around in the dark underbelly of recent US history, it seems, we find Bill Barr, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, up to no good.

Thanks to Anne @looneyberg and L.B. for their help with this piece.

Greg Olear is the author of Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia (2018), as well as two novels. 

You can subscribe to Olear's website PREVAIL here and follow him on Twitter here.


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