Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday night said that "history is written by the winners" during an interview with CBS News. (Photo: Screenshot/CBS News)

U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday night said that "history is written by the winners" during an interview with CBS News. (Photo: Screenshot/CBS News)

'My God,' Says US Senator After William Barr Deploys 'History Is Written by the Winners' Trope

"The head of the American justice system now saying publicly that there is no good or bad except what the strongest want," said another critic. "The definition of autocracy."

"My god."

That was the initial two-word reaction of Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) late Thursday night after CBS News aired an interview with U.S. Attorney General William Barr who declared that "history is written by the winners" when asked how he thought historians would view the Justice Department's dropping of charges against President Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn earlier in the day.

To critics like Murphy, Barr's response was a clear betrayal of the standards that should be upheld by the Justice Department and the American legal system.

"The entire idea of the rule of law—that thing the Attorney General is supposed to be in charge of upholding—is predicated on the outcome of elections NOT mattering when it comes to the operation of the legal system," Murphy said.

After the DOJ's decision to drop charges against Flynn there was no shortage of outrage directed at Barr, with many critics saying it appeared to be a direct effort to help the president politically.

"Barr has consistently acted for the personal and political benefit of President Trump, rather than fulfilling his duty as chief law enforcement officer of the United States," said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Legal experts, meanwhile, said the DOJ maneuvers related to the Flynn case were unprecedented.

"I've been practicing for more time than I care to admit and I've never seen anything like this," Julie O'Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Georgetown University, told the New York Times.

But Barr's deflection of such criticisms—delivered with what the Daily Beast characterized as "a sly smile"—during the CBS interview sparked even further alarm.

"The head of the American justice system now saying publicly that there is no good or bad except what the strongest want. The definition of autocracy," tweeted writer and director Adam Stein in response.

Political science professor Robert E. Kelly, who teaches at the Pusan National University in South Korea, said it's "kinda mind-blowing that the US equivalent of the justice minister is embracing might-makes-right historiography. [Isn't] his job literally the opposite?"

In the U.S. meanwhile, journalist and left-leaning columnist Will Bunch suggested it was time to put Barr's theory of history and justice to the test.

"We need to win in November and write the history of how Bill Barr spent the rest of his life in prison," Bunch quipped.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Ocasio-Cortez Says 'Elephant in the Room' Is Senate Democrats Blocking Their Own Party's Agenda

"The argument that we need to make here," the New York Democrat said of bipartisanship's dead end, "is that it's worth going it alone if we can do more for working people in this country."

Jon Queally, staff writer ·


On Climate and Covid-19 Emergencies, G7 Judged a 'Colossal Failure' for All the World to See

"Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world. In the face of these challenges the G7 have chosen to cook the books on vaccines and continue to cook the planet."

Jon Queally, staff writer ·


NYC Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams Rebuked for 'Dangerous' 400-Students-to-1-Teacher Theory

"Defunding schools to the point that we have a 400:1 student-to-teacher ratio so we can bankroll another huge expansion in an already-multibillion dollar police budget," said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, "is how you build a school-to-prison pipeline."

Jon Queally, staff writer ·


Lack of Patent Waiver Would Add Over $70 Billion to Cost of Vaccinating World: Oxfam

Most of that money, said a spokesperson for the group, "will go directly into the pockets" of Big Pharma shareholders.

Jon Queally, staff writer ·


Darnella Frazier Receives Pulitzer Special Citation 'for Courageously Recording the Murder of George Floyd'

"Without Darnella, Derek Chauvin never would have been tried and George Floyd would have been blamed by the state for his own death."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·