WASHINGTON – Attorney General William P. Barr is considering resigning before President Donald Trump’s term ends next month, according to three people familiar with the thinking. One said Barr could announce his departure before the end of the year.
It was not clear whether the attorney general’s reasoning was influenced by Trump’s refusal to admit his loss of the election or his anger over Barr’s recognition last week that the Justice Department had not uncovered widespread electoral fraud. In the days that followed, the President refused to say whether he still had confidence in his Attorney General.
One of the people insisted that Barr had weighed his departure since last week and that Trump hadn’t influenced the attorney general’s thinking. Another said Barr concluded that he had completed the work he wanted to do in the Justice Department.
But the president’s public complaints about the election, including an unsubstantiated claim earlier last week that federal law enforcement rigged the election against him, are sure to throw a cloud over any early departure from Barr. By leaving early, Barr avoided a confrontation with the president for refusing to push Trump’s efforts to rewrite the election results.
Barr’s departure would also withhold from the president a cabinet official who has put the power of the Justice Department more at the service of a president’s political agenda than any attorney general has in half a century. Conversely, it would please some Trump allies who have urged Barr to resign over his refusal to further engage in Trump’s efforts to reverse the election result.
Barr hasn’t made a final decision, and the prospect of staying through Jan 20 remains a possibility, warned those familiar with his thinking. Should Barr step down before the end of the Trump administration, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen is expected to lead the Department of Justice until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. The White House had no comment.
Barr, 70, is the strongest proponent of president’s power since Watergate took office as attorney general. Shortly after being confirmed in February 2019, it gained Trump’s trust and ear. He managed to heal rifts between the White House and the Justice Department that erupted when the president learned that his campaign was being investigated in the context of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Like Trump, Barr believed that the FBI had abused its power to investigate the Trump campaign’s relations with Russia. An independent inspector general has determined that the bureau had sufficient reason to open the investigation and that senior officials there acted without political bias.
But weeks after he took office, Barr released a summary of Special Envoy Robert S. Mueller III’s report, which a judge later described as biased and misleading. He presented it to Trump in the best possible light before the public could read it.
Barr soon asked John H. Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, to conduct an investigation into the Russia investigation himself to determine any wrongdoing under the Obama administration.
While that investigation hasn’t yet produced the results Trump specifically wanted – including criminal charges against former Presidents Barack Obama and Biden and former FBI director James B. Comey – Barr made sure Durham’s The Work becomes continued in the next administration. In October, he secretly appointed Durham as a special adviser charged with looking for wrongdoing in the course of the Russia investigation.
Barr announced the appointment last week at the same time he said he had seen no evidence that election fraud had affected election results. Linking the Durham announcement to this revelation was widely viewed as an attempt to reassure Trump, who was allegedly angry that Barr publicly contradicted him.
Barr was one of the loudest voices during the presidential campaign to warn that postal ballot papers would lead to mass electoral fraud. In speeches and interviews, he routinely claimed that the potential for widespread election fraud was high and posed a great danger. Barr’s claims were at times false or exaggerated and have been largely refuted.
“I have no empirical evidence other than the fact that we always had electoral fraud. And there will always be people who try, ”Barr said in September. He called his conclusions “common sense”.
And after the election, Barr opened the door to politically accused electoral fraud investigations and empowered federal prosecutors to investigate “specific allegations” of electoral fraud before the results were confirmed. Typically, the Department of Justice waits until the total number of votes is confirmed to investigate such suspicions so as not to shake public confidence in elections.
At the same time, Barr’s public appearances dwindled and he made no comment on the results or Trump’s attempts to reverse the outcome. But as the president’s legal challenges reached an impasse, pressure increased on Barr to speak up when Trump suggested in an interview on Nov. 29 that the Department of Justice and the FBI may have been implicated in some form of electoral fraud.
“This is total fraud. And like the FBI and the Justice Department – I don’t know, maybe they are involved – but how people can get away with this stuff is incredible, ”Trump told Fox Business presenter Maria Bartiromo.
A few days later, Barr broke his silence and told The that he had not seen any evidence of election fraud on a scale that would have changed the fact that Biden won.
“To date, we have not seen any fraud of a magnitude that could lead to a different election result,” he said.
With Barr’s departure, Trump would lose the cabinet official who implemented his agenda on policing, racial unrest, positive action and immigration. Unlike officials who privately denigrated Trump, department officials and friends say Barr agrees with most, if not all, of the president’s positions and his view that he was wronged by the Obama administration.
Barr himself has complained about the idea that his actions helped Trump’s allies – by downgrading a sentence recommendation for the president’s longtime friend, Roger J. Stone Jr., of seven criminal convictions, and by attempting to stop the prosecution of Michael T. Lied to Flynn on charges of withdrawing investigators – were done at the orders of the President. He has publicly and privately insisted that no matter what, he took these steps because he believed them to be right.
When Barr left the Justice Department in 1993 after serving as Attorney General under President George HW Bush, he became General Counsel of the telecommunications company GTE Corp., which eventually became Verizon. That time at the company ended with a payout of $ 10.4 million, making him a millionaire many times over, making him unlikely to take on another full-time job after he left the department.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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