Attorney General Bill Barr is stepping down next week, after nearly two years of serving as a staunch Trump ally at the Department of Justice, the president announced Monday.
“Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House. Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job! As per letter, Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family,” President Trump tweeted Monday evening, mere minutes after President-elect Joe Biden’s win was officially confirmed by the Electoral College.
“Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, an outstanding person, will become Acting Attorney General. Highly respected Richard Donoghue will be taking over the duties of Deputy Attorney General. Thank you to all!” he added.
Barr heaped praise on the president in a sycophantic resignation letter Trump posted on Twitter, lauding him for all he “accomplished” in the “face of relentless, impeccable resistance.”
“Your 2016 victory speech in which you reached out to your opponents and called for working together for the benefit of the American people was immediately met by a partisan onslaught against you in which no tactic, no matter how abusive and deceitful, was out of bounds,” the letter reads. “The nadir of this campaign was the effort to cripple, if not oust, your Administration with frenzied and baseless accusations of collusion with Russia.”
Barr came into the office with a belief in presidential power that seemed limitless. But even he appeared to have reached some boundaries as to what he would do for Trump, which ultimately led to his undoing.
News last week that Barr worked to keep an investigation into Hunter Biden quiet in the lead up to the election, combined with his reluctance to aid Trump’s false election voter fraud crusade, appear to have been the final nails in Barr’s coffin.
“A big disappointment!” Trump tweeted Dec. 12 alongside a retweet that Barr should be fired by the end of the day.
In the run up to the 2020 election, Barr had been under extreme pressure to produce evidence that former President Barack Obama and Biden had spied on Trump’s 2016 campaign. His investigations into the origins of the Russia probe have ultimately failed to produce any significant legal or political reverberations.
With less than two weeks until Election Day, Trump urged Barr to launch a probe into Biden’s son, Hunter, and alleged ties to nefarious sources of foreign money. After the election, news broke that Barr had in fact worked to keep a Justice Department investigation into Hunter Biden from becoming public. (DOJ guidelines direct attorneys to refrain from announcing investigations that may affect elections.)
“Why didn’t Bill Barr reveal the truth to the public, before the Election, about Hunter Biden. Joe was lying on the debate stage that nothing was wrong, or going on—Press confirmed. Big disadvantage for Republicans at the polls!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 12.
After losing the election, Trump enlisted Barr with finding enough instances of fraud to help the president build the case that Biden had stolen the election from him. Barr made a major break from precedent and authorized U.S. attorneys to open up election fraud investigations “if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations” that could change the outcome of the election.
But weeks later, he told the Associated Press in an interview that no such evidence had been found. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” he said.
Shortly after the Associated Press interview was published, Barr was spotted walking into the White House, where he stayed for more than two hours, prompting speculation he would be fired that day. The meeting was “intense,” according to ABC News.
Barr announced he was appointing John H. Durham, a former U.S. Attorney who has headed an investigation looking into the origins of the Russia probe, as a special counsel to continue his seemingly quixotic mission well into when the Biden administration takes over next year.
But two days later, when Trump was asked by a reporter whether he had confidence in Barr, he responded cryptically.
“Ask me that in a number of weeks from now,” Trump replied, omitting that he, too, would be out of a job in six weeks.
As things went from bad to worse for Trump, so did Barr’s job security. When the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch lawsuit alleging voter fraud brought by the Texas attorney general and joined by Trump himself, Trump reportedly raised the prospect of firing Barr in Oval Office meetings again.
“I hope Trump fires him anyway,” one DOJ employee told The Daily Beast earlier this month, after Barr resisted Trump’s calls to interfere in the election results. “Everyone who hates Barr here still hates him. People's contempt for him is so deeply rooted, we can’t forgive what he’s done to the Justice Department.”