Former Attorney General Bill Barr confirmed during an interview with PBS last week that Americans who claim a so-called “deep state” of bureaucrats operating virtually independently behind the scenes of any administration is real and not a fabrication of tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists.
What’s more, Barr, who served in the administrations of Presidents Donald Trump and George H. W. Bush, is no fan of it.
“I am critical of the Deep State and believe it exists,” Barr said during an interview with PBS host Margaret Hoover on “The Firing Line.”
“So given that you’ve worked with career professionals, you have had a long career of interfacing with civil servants who have made their life in the government, I think you’re actually particularly well-suited to comment about the state of the Deep State—whether it exists, how it exists, what it looks like—to put some nuance and some texture around it for me,” Hoover said after Barr talked about his experiences under Bush and how he — also a former CIA chief — interacted with careerists in government.
“Well, I think the people who attack the Deep State – and I am critical of the Deep State and believe it exists – but there’s also some of the rhetoric and some of the positioning…” Barr began before Hoover interjected.
“So, how do you define it?” she asked.
“The way I would define the deep state is an increased willingness by more and more government civil servants to pursue political objectives rather than stand up for the values of the institution they’re a part of. They are not neutral. They’re not politically neutral,” Barr said. “But on the other side of the ledger, okay, is that I think there’s an exaggeration of its pervasiveness. It’s bad. It does pervert government.”
“But I still think the vast majority of civil servants try to do an honest job and try to check their politics at the door. And I think that President Bush’s quote that you played is right on the money,” he added. “The most important thing is leadership.
“When you provide clear guidance and goals people will– the institution will deliver for you. You can move the institution. And I think people who come in to run the government, who try to govern, who treat government employees as pariahs, are not doing their job,” he added, which some viewed as a thinly veiled jab at Trump.
Barr also turned heads early in his tenure in the Trump administration by saying, under oath, that he believed Trump’s 2016 campaign was “spied” on.
“Oh, it was clearly spied upon. I mean, that’s what electronic surveillance is,” Barr said during an MSNBC interview in 2019 after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report critiquing the FBI and Justice Department for its actions involving the 2016 Trump campaign and after Trump won office.
“I think wiring people up to go in and talk to people and make recordings of their conversations is spying. I think going through people’s emails which they did as a result of the FISA warrant,” he added.