Former Attorney General William Barr On The Deep State: ‘There Is A Deep State,’ It ‘Exists’

Former Attorney General William Barr On The Deep State: ‘There Is A Deep State,’ It ‘Exists’

Former Attorney General William Barr said during an interview this week that he believes the so-called “deep state” exists and that it is defined by people who use their roles as civil servants to pursue partisan political agendas.

Barr made the remarks during an interview on PBS’ “Firing Line” with host Margaret Hoover when he was asked to comment on his first stint as attorney general back in the 1990s under then-President George H.W. Bush, who previously ran the CIA.

“He was CIA director for one year and that institution is now named after him. When you drive by it in Langley, it’s the George H.W. Bush Center,” he said. “And he was highly regarded because he basically trusted people in the agency. He didn’t separate himself from them and, you know, bash them and so forth. Now, I have to say that it was a different age. Things have, you know, evolved.”

“So, you know, I wouldn’t take what he said to say, ‘Well, gee, you know, the people who were saying there’s a Deep State today are, you know, are wrong,’ right?” Barr continued. “There is a deep state.”

“I am critical of the Deep State and believe it exists,” he continued. “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. 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.”

WATCH:

TRANSCRIPT:

MARGARET HOOVER: You worked under George H.W. Bush when he was CIA director as well, when you were still at the CIA. And you write, “He was easily accessible and he trusted CIA professionals, unless they gave him reason not to. I learned a lot watching him lift up a dispirited organization.” Talk more about what you learned from Bush’s leadership.

BILL BARR: Well, exactly that. He was CIA director for one year and that institution is now named after him. When you drive by it in Langley, it’s the George H.W. Bush Center. And he was highly regarded because he basically trusted people in the agency. He didn’t separate himself from them and, you know, bash them and so forth. Now I have to say that it was a different age. Things have, you know, evolved. So, you know, I wouldn’t take what he said to say, ‘Well, gee, you know, the people who were saying there’s a Deep State today are, you know, are wrong,’ right? There is a deep state.

HOOVER: That’s where I– You read my mind. That’s where I’m going. 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.

BARR: 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–

HOOVER: So how do you define it?

BARR: 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. 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. 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.

Related: Bill Barr Blasts Letitia James’ Civil Lawsuit Against The Trump Family: ‘It’s A Political Hit Job’

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