It was Sept. 12, 2019.
Congress was asking why the Trump administration appeared to be concealing a whistleblower complaint, as the White House lifted a mysterious block on $350 million in military aid to Ukraine.
And Attorney General Bill Barr, then-head of federal law enforcement in the Trump administration, was watching a Downton Abbey screening at the British Embassy.
Texts from Barr’s government-issued cell phone released Wednesday under the Freedom of Information Act show a person named Molly texting Barr that evening, saying that she had been asked to “relay a message.”
“At British embassy screening of Downton Abbey,” Barr, a former Time Warner executive, replied.
The Barr texts, covering a period from March 15, 2019 to September 14, 2020, offer a peek into the work of Trump’s attorney general, showing how he played a personal role in spinning media narratives with DOJ PR reps, monitored Trump’s tweets about the Department’s work, and kept a close watch during Black Lives Matter protests on what he saw as a devious national threat known as Antifa.
Five months after the Downton Abbey screening, the Ukraine impeachment saga was drawing to an end. On Jan. 30, White House counsel Pat Cippollone defended Trump on the Senate trial’s tenth day.
“You are a STAR.” Barr texted Cippollone that night.
The Senate voted to acquit Trump, putting an end to an imbrogolio that was quickly overshadowed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was none other than Peter Navarro, the economics commentator and Trump adviser, who texted Barr a link on March 26 to a notice from HHS saying that the federal government would designate PPE as “scarce materials.”
“Bill we have ignition,” Navarro wrote.
Barr, according to the records, did not reply. The next communication from Navarro came on August 20, when he wrote to Barr: “Bill please call ASAP. Navarro.”
It is not clear whether Barr replied.
Other Trumpworld denizens also communicated with Barr, the texts show.
On May 2, then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows texted Barr about former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), then serving out a 10 year money laundering and campaign finance sentence in federal prison that would later be curtailed by a pardon from Trump in December 2020.
“There are a number of people who think [Stockman] could be at risk because of COVID 19. I am not asking for any special treatment because of his congressional service but certainly no worse treatment either,” Meadows wrote. “Can you have someone look at it from a fairness.”
“Got it.” Barr replied.
That request doesn’t appear to have led to any change in whether the former rep was incarcerated — Stockman later survived a COVID-19 infection, and was reportedly denied release that summer, all before his pardon.
Later in 2020, Barr and Meadows traded links about Black Lives Matter protests.
That appears to have been a theme for Barr and his staff. In a June 6, 2020 text thread with his chief of staff Will Levi and spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, Levi remarked that “the city sent us a nice FU by placing portapotties next to DOJ.”
But for Barr, an arch-conservative who once reminisced to a New York Times magazine reporter about fighting off student protestors in 1968, the real menace of summer 2020 appears to not have been portapotties, but, rather, Antifa.
On May 30, Barr released a statement about the murder of George Floyd, saying that “violent radical elements” were hijacking protests over his death to instigate rioting.
“In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchistic and far left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence,” the statement reads.
On Barr’s cell phone, the attorney general and Kupec immediately got down to brass tacks: tracking the statements’ reaction in the press, on social media, and on Trump’s Twitter feed.
“Portions of your statement made into into all the general news stories on riots and Antifa, a collective 10k retweets (mine + DOJ) thus far, including Kayleigh retweeting, and on the cables,” Kupec texted Barr the next day. “I spent the afternoon with walking reporters through prosecution of terrorism under existing fed law and how it squares with the POTUS tweet. I also coordinated with the FBI and Kayleigh.”
Barr, ever dour, replied: “Hoping for more retweets.”
The texts as released go through September 2020. Read them here.