William Barr says he would have 'crawled over broken glass' to vote for Trump in 2016 because he would pick Justice Antonin Scalia's successor

William Barr says he would have 'crawled over broken glass' to vote for Trump in 2016 because he would pick Justice Antonin Scalia's successor
Former Attorney General Bill BarrAP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
  • Former AG William Barr wrote he would have "crawled over broken glass" to vote for Trump in 2016.
  • One of the most important issues for Barr in that election was the Supreme Court.

Former Attorney General William Barr had an acrimonious falling out with President Donald Trump over the 2020 election — but back in 2016, Barr says he would have "crawled over broken glass" to vote for Trump.

Barr, a highly influential figure in the conservative legal world who served two stints as attorney general under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Trump, detailed his thinking around the 2016 election in his new book "One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General," released on Tuesday.

Barr wrote that he initially supported Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and son of George H.W. Bush, in the 2016 Republican primaries, calling Jeb "down-to-earth, thoughtful, and soundly conservative."

But after Bush flamed out of the primaries and Trump emerged as the frontrunner, Barr "had no hesitancy backing him over Hillary Clinton" and wrote the Trump campaign a check the day after Trump secured the nomination.

Even though Barr didn't think Trump was his "idea of a president" and found his "frequently crass, bombastic, and petulant style" to be "grating," he eventually came around to Trump's style and policy agenda.


Barr also makes no secret of his distaste for President Barack Obama and the Clintons in his book, writing that in 2016, "the country was in no mood for four more years of Obama-era progressivism and Clintonian mendacity."

A key reason for supporting Trump other than his policy agenda, Barr wrote, was the Supreme Court. After legendary conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Republicans controlled the Senate and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold hearings for Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

Barr said he was encouraged by Trump's pledge to nominate judges and justices like Scalia, whose name he emphasized as "Sca-lee-ah."

"Still, Trump was not one to discuss judicial philosophy with any precision, and I wondered if he knew why Sca-lee-ah was so important to conservatives. But in May 2016 he released a list of eleven potential Supreme Court picks, and in September he added ten more names. Those lists presented an impressive array of committed constitutionalists," Barr wrote.

Barr said it all came down to just one question.


"Who did I want determining the direction of the Supreme Court for years to come: Trump or Hillary Clinton? The question was not close," Barr said. "On this basis alone, I would crawl over broken glass to the polls to vote for Trump."

Trump did, in fact, end up nominating three conservative justices to the Court: Justice Neil Gorsuch to succeed Scalia in 2017, Justice Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy in 2018, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett to take the place of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died less than two months before the election.

Even after sharply criticizing Trump and saying he believes that Trump should not be the Republican nominee in 2024, Barr still wrote that at the end of the day, Trump "deserves enormous credit for sparing the nation a Hillary Clinton presidency," in addition to "exposing the hypocrisy and hackery of a supposedly professional mainstream news media; and pursuing sound, conservative policies." Barr also told NBC News on Monday that he would vote for Trump if he's the GOP nominee in 2024.