President Trump announced that Attorney General William Barr will be leaving the Trump administration just before Christmas.
“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,” Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon. “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!”
Barr’s letter announcing he would be leaving his position this month said he will depart on Dec. 23 and will spend the next week “wrapping up a few remaining matters important” to the administration.
“I am greatly honored that you called on me to serve your Administration and the American people once again as Attorney General,” Barr wrote. “I am proud to have played a role in the many successes and unprecedented achievements you have delivered for the American people. Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance.”
Last week, it was revealed that President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, is under federal criminal investigation related to his foreign business dealings, including in China, and Trump asked on Wednesday, ”Why didn’t the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election.” The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that, according to a source, Barr “has known about a disparate set of investigations involving Hunter Biden’s business and financial dealings since at least this spring” and “worked to avoid their public disclosure” during the 2020 election to avoid interfering with the vote.
Barr also revealed earlier this month that the Justice Department has not found evidence of extensive voter fraud that could create a different outcome in the 2020 presidential race, contradicting claims made by Trump and his allies that the race was “rigged” or “stolen” and that Biden didn’t really win. The attorney general said that “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.”
Trump’s legal team responded by claiming that “there hasn’t been any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation.” And, when asked if he had confidence in Barr a couple days later, Trump said to “ask me that in a number of weeks from now” and that “they should be looking at all of this fraud.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to update your this afternoon on the Department’s review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued,” Barr wrote in his Monday letter. “At a time when the country is so deeply divided, it is incumbent on all levels of government, and all agencies acting within their purview, to do all we can to assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in their outcomes.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat and longtime Barr critic, released a statement taking a parting shot at the attorney general.
“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 budding on every front but one,” Nadler declared. “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.”
Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said he has “nothing but total respect and admiration for the job done” by Barr in a statement of his own, adding that the attorney general “vigorously pursued the corruption that was Crossfire Hurricane and has made a real genuine effort to restore credibility to the Department of Justice after the leadership” of fired FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. The South Carolina Republican also said Barr “has set in motion many reforms to the FISA process” and he “was the right man at the right time in overseeing highly political investigations, and stood in the breach at times against both the left and the right.”
Barr used his resignation letter to criticize the Russia investigation, telling Trump that his presidency “immediately met by a partisan onslaught against you in which no tactic, no matter how abusive and deceitful, was out of bounds” and that “the nadir of this campaign was the effort to cripple, if not oust, your Administration with frenzied and baseless accusations of collusion with Russia.”
In early December, Barr revealed he had quietly appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to serve as a special counsel back in October, tasked with investigating any violations of law related to the inquiries conducted by the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane operation and, later, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Trump lamented in a Facebook video this month that “Durham didn’t want to go after these people … before the election, so who knows if he’ll ever even do a report.”
Durham, a federal prosecutor from Connecticut, has been looking into a host of issues related to the origins and conduct of the investigation into Russian meddling and alleged collusion with the Trump campaign, and his criminal inquiry has netted one guilty plea already, with ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith admitting to fraudulently altering an email to say that former Trump campaign associate Carter Page was “not a source” for the CIA as the bureau pursued flawed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act surveillance against him relying upon British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier.
Barr responded to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report by saying it “makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”
Biden has not said whether he will allow Durham to finish his investigation.
Much of Trump’s presidency was consumed by the Trump-Russia investigation, which was launched in July 2016 and escalated following Trump’s firing of Comey and the appointment of Mueller as special counsel.
Mueller’s 448-page report, released in April 2019, said the Russians interfered in 2016 in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” but the special counsel “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” The special counsel also laid out 10 possible instances of Trump obstructing justice but did not reach a conclusion. Barr and Rod Rosenstein, who was deputy attorney general at the time, concluded Trump had not obstructed justice.
Federal prosecutors told the court in February that they recommended Roger Stone receive up to nine years behind bars. But after Trump tweeted that he “cannot allow this miscarriage of justice,” the Justice Department suggested a less severe sentence. The four prosecutors on the case withdrew as the department walked back the “unduly high” sentence recommendation. Barr called the Stone conviction a “righteous prosecution” and denied that the president’s tweet influenced the Justice Department’s actions — but Barr did complain that such tweets make “it impossible for me to do my job.” Trump eventually granted Stone clemency.
The Justice Department moved to dismiss the charges against Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn in May, and Barr said then that “I’m doing the law’s bidding. I’m doing my duty under the law as I see it.” Trump granted Flynn a pardon earlier this month.
Barr wrote on Monday that the Justice Department had “worked tirelessly to protect the public from violent crime” and “worked closely with leaders in Mexico to fight the drug cartels.” He also said the DOJ had “cracked down on China’s exploitation of our economy and workers” and “defended competition in the marketplace” while it “supported the men and women of law enforcement.”
In addition, the attorney general effusively praised the “positive program” he said Trump put together for the country, including that he built “the strongest and most resilient economy” in U.S. history, “restored American military strength,” brokered “historic deals” in the Middle East, “curbed illegal immigration” and enhanced U.S. border security, “advanced the rule of law” through judicial appointments, and put together Operation Warp Speed to help produce an effective coronavirus vaccine.
Biden’s attorney general pick will take over amid calls from som e Democrats for Trump to be investigated after he leaves office, with the Trump administration, including the Justice Department, ramping up pressure on China and as Barr has scheduled federal executions during the transition period while Biden promises to end capital punishment.
Biden was asked by NBC’s Lester Holt this month about the possibility of investigating Trump after he leaves office, and the former Obama vice president suggested he wouldn’t direct his attorney general to do so.
“I will not do what this president does and use the Justice Department as my vehicle to insist that something happen,” Biden said. “There are a number of investigations that I’ve read about that are at a state level — there’s nothing at all I can or cannot do about that.”
Barr, who previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 until early 1993, became Trump’s attorney general in February 2019.
“I’m not going to do anything that I think was wrong, and I won’t be bullied into doing anything that I think is wrong, whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the president … I’m going to do what I think is right,” Barr said during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in January 2019, adding, “I feel that I’m in a spot in life where I can provide the leadership necessary to protect the independence and the reputation of the department and serve in this administration.”