Life Imitates Billions: The Berman-Barr Battle

Hand to God, I do other things than watch teevee, even if this is the second consecutive post with a teevee theme. This time it’s quality not trash teevee. That’s my defense and I’m sticking to it.

The Billions plot line in question comes from season-3 in 2018. It involves US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) fending off attempts by new Attorney General Waylon “Jock” Jeffcoat (Clancy Brown) to do political dirty deeds on behalf of the administration. It anticipates Holding The Line the new book by Geoffrey Berman who held Chuck’s job IRL from 2018-2020.

Berman is a lifelong Republican who began as a Trump loyalist until he was asked to do political dirty deeds on behalf of the administration by Bill Barr. Like Chuck Rhoades, Berman is no saint but when he was pushed too hard, he began to push back. That led to Barr announcing that Berman had resigned, Berman issuing a statement refuting the resignation, which forced Barr to fire him, but he was unable to impose his own stooge on the office.

There are some astonishing revelations in the book. Barr was even more political than we thought but he was shrewd enough to issue his most offensive orders in person or via subordinates.

The most gobsmacking revelation involves Trump’s desire to prosecute a man who needs no introduction, John Kerry. Trump tweeted twice that he thought Big John should be prosecuted under the Logan Act for consorting with Iran. Berman was informed that he was to be the hatchet man. Berman demurred so the case was sent elsewhere where it died an ignominious death.

DOJ under Bill Barr was so far gone that they tried to engage in prosecution by Tweet. Federal criminal cases are not supposed to be filed because the president* has a wild hair up his ass. That’s how things went during the Trump regime.

I’ve seen three interviews with Berman thus far. He comes off fairly well. I’m not quite sure I completely buy his reasoning for not doing a big reveal before now BUT he’s one of the few Trump appointees to publicly push back while he was still in office. It’s a pushmi-pullyu situation.

Berman’s timing, however, is impeccable. Barr is trying to rehabilitate his image by being a post-election critic of the Impeached Insult Comedian. Berman’s book tour is a reminder that Barr was Trump’s legal hatchet man and pedigreed fixer.

Berman believes that Barr and some of the other DOJ types who have testified in front of the J6 committee should be judged on their conduct *before* the election. I concur. They only turned against the Kaiser of Chaos when he tried to steal the election and stay in power illegally. There were many illegal orders issued and followed before that.

Barr’s recent conduct is the political equivalent of a death bed conversion. He doesn’t want to share Rudy Giuliani’s ignominious fate. He may be an evil motherfucker but he’s a smart motherfucker.

Like Chuck Rhoades, Geoffrey Berman is a flawed protagonist. Berman is neither hero nor villain. I’m glad he decided to go public, but it should have happened earlier. That’s the story of the Trump era, the crew only abandons ship after it’s torpedoed. They’re all out for themselves. The characters on Billions can identify with that.

The last word goes to Nick Lowe and Rockpile:

PS: I don’t want to be called out by other Billions fans, Chuck Rhoades is corrupt but only when it benefits him.

3 thoughts on “Life Imitates Billions: The Berman-Barr Battle

  1. Unlike, say, Bob Woodward or Maggie Haberman, who work for what are supposed to be 24-hour news outlets and supposedly therefore have obligations to that audience, I’m a little more tolerant — a little — of the time it took Berman to come forward. Yeah, in a vacuum, he probably should have quit before he did. But I think it was worth it for him to have stayed long enough to ensure that his successor would be a dedicated professional and not another Trump/Barr hatchet man.

    And then there’s the thing about writing a book and getting it published: It takes a long time. If the book is being published this week, that means it has probably been with the publisher for more than a year. That, in turn, means Berman probably submitted it six months or less into the Biden administration. And *that*, in turn, means he probably started researching and writing it not long at all after he got fired.

    I think he should have testified to Congress and/or a grand jury about what he knew — but where? Insofar as I can tell, neither Congress nor the DOJ (nor the New York State AG nor the Manhattan DA nor the Fulton County, Ga., DA) is directly investigating Bill Barr and Donald Trump’s use of DOJ as a political tool. If he hasn’t testified anywhere, the likeliest reason is that no one has asked him to.

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