On Winners and Losers and Who Writes the History

Attorney General William Barr ignited yet another firestorm last week by dismissing all charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Then Barr threw more gas on the fire when Catherine Herridge of CBS asked him, “When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written?”

“Well,” Barr replied, “history is written by the winners, so it largely depends on who’s writing the history.”

The full quote turned out to be less cynical than the ubiquitous sound bite. Barr added, “I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It … upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.”

My own view of the Flynn episode is that the former decorated general behaved poorly—by his own admission lying to the FBI—but the FBI behaved terribly, too. Flynn was caught up in a counterintelligence investigation that became a politicized criminal investigation without sufficient evidence of a crime.

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