Attorney General Barr Stepping Down Weeks Before Trump Exit

Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable discussion in St. Louis on Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Attorney General William Barr will resign his post just before Christmas, President Donald Trump said shortly after his election loss to Joe Biden was formally certified.  

Trump said Barr will step down on Dec. 23 in a tweet featuring a resignation letter from the nation’s outgoing top cop that heaped praise on the president’s s single term in office.

Barr’s exit, which was expected, comes as Biden’s win in November was finally enshrined by the Electoral College on Monday. Trump and Barr have been at odds in recent weeks over Biden’s victory with Trump claiming regularly – and baselessly – that widespread voter fraud is to blame for his loss.

The Department of Justice declared publicly on Dec. 1 that it found zero evidence of election or voter fraud. But in his resignation letter shared by and addressed to Trump, Barr notably wrote: “I appreciate the opportunity to update you this afternoon on the Department’s review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued.”

In the brief two-page letter, Barr, who also served as attorney general for President George H.W. Bush., offered glowing reviews of Trump, saying that the administration’s achievements were “unprecedented” and “historic” and all while “in the face of relentless, implacable resistance.”

When Trump put Barr forward for confirmation in the Senate last year, he faced a grilling from skeptical Democrats who called into question for two days whether the nominee would remain loyal to the president first or to the department he would spearhead. Most questions around Barr’s capacity for impartiality stemmed from a 19-page memo he sent to a slew of White House attorneys in 2017 that theorized former special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating the president improperly.

The attorney general also did little to assuage concerns during his confirmation hearing, telling lawmakers repeatedly he believed loyalty was owed in equal measure to both the Justice Department and the president.

Barr entered the Justice Department only after his predecessor Jeff Sessions resigned at the president’s request in November 2018. Sessions and Trump came to blows openly after the former U.S. senator from Alabama recused himself from Mueller’s investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election.

Announcing Barr’s resignation Monday, Trump said he had a “very nice meeting” with the attorney general at the White House and offered his compliments, saying he had done an “outstanding job.”

In a follow-up tweet, Trump also said he selected Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen to serve as acting head of the department in Barr’s place for the remaining six weeks of the Trump administration.

While the president’s tweets indicate Barr’s exit from the administration is amicable, a Wall Street Journal report from Dec. 10 cited an anonymous source who claimed Barr actively worked to keep investigations into Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son, under wraps in the lead-up to the November election. Trump has regularly pushed, and very publicly, for probes into the Bidens.

Barr reportedly knew of the inquiries since spring, though the exact timeline is murky, according to the Wall Street Journal report. Hunter Biden was subpoenaed last week in an investigation related to his taxes.

Richard Donoghue, a former prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, will replace Rosen as deputy attorney general. In February, as the president faced his impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, Donoghue was tapped by the Justice Department to assist with “coordinating” matters related to Ukraine. It was Trump’s call with Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky, in which he pushed for an investigation into the Bidens, that earned the single-term president his impeachment by the House a month before.

A representative for the Department of Justice did not immediately return a request for comment Monday night.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler did not mince words Monday when reacting to Barr’s resignation. 

“From misleading the American public about the Mueller report to his dangerous efforts to overturn Covid safety measures, from his callous disregard for civil rights to his rampant politicization of the Justice Department, William Barr was willing to do the president’s bidding on every front but one,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.

He added, “Barr refused to play along with President Trump’s nonsensical claims to have won the election.  He is now out as attorney general one month early. In 37 days, President-Elect Biden will be sworn into office. Whomever Joe Biden chooses as the new attorney general will have a tremendous amount of work to do to repair the integrity of the Department of Justice—and I, for one, look forward to being a partner in that project.  The work must begin without delay.”

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