WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorney General William Barr, one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies, is departing the administration following a Monday to the White House.
“As per letter, Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family,” Trump tweeted.
In his resignation letter, Barr said he updated Trump Monday on the department’s “review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued.” He added that his last day on the job would be Dec. 23.
Trump said Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, whom he labeled “an outstanding person,” will become acting attorney general.
Barr had generally remained in the president’s good graces and has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls.
One senior administration official not authorized to speak publicly and speaking to The AP on condition of anonymity said Barr had resigned of his own accord and described the meeting as amicable.
Barr, who was serving in his second stint as attorney general, was as an independent leader who would not bow to political pressure. But Democrats repeatedly accused Barr of acting more like the president’s personal attorney than the attorney general, and Barr had proved to be a largely reliable defender of presidential power.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican leader of the judiciary committee, told reporters at the Capitol he was surprised by the news.
“I think he did an incredibly good job trying to repair damage done to the Department of Justice, trying to be fair and faithful to the law. I think he’s got a lot to be proud of,” Graham said. “He fought for the president where he could, as every attorney general and administration should, but he also didn’t cross lines that he shouldn’t have crossed.” He said he was referring to disclosing the Biden investigation.
Graham also praised Rosen as a “good man” who he said would “be an ethical leader and a steady hand” at the Justice Department.
He appointed as special counsel the U.S. attorney who is conducting a criminal investigation into the origins of the FBI’s probe of the 2016 election that morphed into Mueller’s investigation of possible Trump-Russia cooperation, following Trump’s repeated calls to “investigate the investigators.”
Barr also ordered Justice Department prosecutors to review the handling of the federal investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and then sought to dismiss the criminal charges against Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.