WASHINGTON – Attorney General William P. Barr plans to step down before President Trump’s term ends next month, according to three people familiar with the thinking. One of them said Mr Barr could announce his departure before the end of the year.
It was not clear whether the attorney general’s deliberations were influenced by Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede his electoral loss or his fury at Mr. Barr’s acknowledgment last week that the Justice Department had failed. discovered no widespread electoral fraud. In the days that followed, the president declined to say whether he still trusted his attorney general.
One of the people insisted that Mr Barr had weighed his departure since last week and that Mr Trump had not affected the thinking of the attorney general. Another said that Mr. Barr concluded that he had completed the job he set out to do in the Department of Justice.
But the president’s public complaints about the election, including a baseless allegation earlier last week that federal law enforcement rigged the election against him, are sure to cast a cloud over everything. early departure of Mr. Barr. By leaving early, Mr. Barr could avoid a confrontation with the president over his refusal to advance Mr. Trump’s efforts to rewrite election results.
Mr Barr’s departure would also deprive the president of a cabinet officer who has wielded the power of the Department of Justice more deeply in the service of a president’s political agenda than any attorney general for half a century. Conversely, it would appeal to some of Trump’s allies, who have called on Mr. Barr to resign over his refusal to continue Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election result.
Mr Barr has not made a final decision, and the prospect of keeping him until Jan. 20 remains a possibility, people familiar with his thinking have warned. If Mr. Barr resigns before the end of the Trump administration, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen is expected to lead the Department of Justice until President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is sworn in.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined to comment. The White House made no comment.
Mr Barr, 70, is the most vocal advocate of presidential power to serve as attorney general since Watergate. Shortly after being confirmed in February 2019, he won Mr. Trump’s trust and his ear. He managed to heal rifts between the White House and the Justice Department that opened when the president learned his campaign was under investigation over Russian interference in the 2016 election. .
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Barr believed that the FBI had abused its power by investigating the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. An independent inspector general found that the office had sufficient reasons to initiate the investigation and that senior officials acted without political bias.
But weeks after taking office, Barr released a summary of Special Advocate Robert S. Mueller III’s report, which a judge later called distorted and misleading. He put it in the best possible light for Mr. Trump before the public could read it.
Mr. Barr quickly called on John H. Durham, the American lawyer for Connecticut, to open an investigation into the investigation into Russia itself in order to find any wrongdoing under the Obama administration.
While this investigation has yet to produce the kind of results Mr. Trump has explicitly said he would like to see – including criminal charges against former President Barack Obama and Mr. Biden, as well as the former director FBI James B. Comey – Mr. Barr ensured Mr. Durham’s work continued in the next administration. In October, he secretly appointed Mr Durham as a special advocate to investigate any wrongdoing during the Russia investigation.
Mr Barr revealed the appointment last week at the same time he said he had seen no evidence that voter fraud affected election results. Associating Durham’s announcement with this revelation was widely seen as an effort to appease Mr. Trump, who would be furious that Mr. Barr publicly contradicted him.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Mr Barr was among the loudest voices to warn that postal ballots would lead to mass electoral fraud. He has consistently asserted in speeches and interviews that the potential for widespread electoral fraud is high and poses a serious danger. Mr. Barr’s claims were at times false or exaggerated and widely refuted.
“I have no empirical evidence other than the fact that we have always had electoral fraud. And there will always be people who try to do it, ”Barr said in September. He called his findings “common sense”.
And after the election, Barr opened the door to investigations into politically motivated voter fraud, allowing federal prosecutors to investigate “specific allegations” of voter fraud before the results are certified. Typically, the Justice Department waits until the vote totals are certified before investigating such suspicions in order to avoid undermining public confidence in the elections.
At the same time, Mr. Barr’s public appearances declined and he made no comment on the results or Mr. Trump’s attempts to reverse the result. But as the president’s legal challenges came to a standstill, pressure on Mr. Barr to speak out increased when Mr. Trump suggested in an interview on Nov. 29 that the Justice Department and the FBI would have may have been “involved” in a kind of electoral fraud.
“It‘s total fraud. And how the FBI and the Justice Department – I don’t know, maybe they’re involved – but how people are allowed to get away with this stuff is amazing, ”Mr Trump told the Fox Business host, Maria Bartiromo.
Mr Barr broke his silence days later, telling The Associated Press he had not seen evidence of voter fraud on a scale that would have changed the fact that Mr Biden won.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have had a different outcome in the election,” he said.
With Mr Barr’s departure, Mr Trump would lose the head of the cabinet that carried out his agenda on policing, racial unrest, affirmative action and immigration. Unlike officials who privately disparaged Mr. Trump, ministry officials and their friends say Mr. Barr agrees with most, if not all, of the president’s positions, as well as his view that he was aggrieved by the Obama administration.
Mr Barr himself took umbrage that his actions which aided Mr Trump’s allies – reducing a sentencing recommendation for President Roger J. Stone Jr.’s longtime friend out of seven convictions for crime and seeking to withdraw the charges against Michael T. Flynn on a charge of lying to investigators – were made at the request of the President. He insisted publicly and privately that he would have taken these steps no matter what, because he felt they were right.
When Mr. Barr left the Justice Department in 1993 after serving as attorney general under President George Bush, he became general counsel for telecommunications company GTE Corp., which eventually became Verizon. This stint with the company ended in a payout of $ 10.4 million and made him a millionaire on several occasions, making it unlikely that he would take another full-time job after leaving the department. .