Attorney General William P. Barr on Monday resigned from the Trump administration, ending his controversial second stint as the nation’s top cop.
The resignation is effective Dec. 23. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen will take over as acting attorney general.
Mr. Barr and the president had openly clashed after the attorney general said the Justice Department had not found any evidence of large-scale voter fraud that would overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s victory.
Still, Mr. Barr, who served as attorney general for President George H.W. Bush, praised Mr. Trump’s record as president in his resignation letter.
“Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance,” Mr. Barr wrote in the letter.
“Few could have weathered these attacks, much less forge ahead with a positive program for the country,” Mr. Barr continued, hailing the president’s work to rebuild the military and to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
In his resignation letter, Mr. Barr wrote that he discussed the Justice Department’s review of voter fraud accusations with the president on Monday and “how these allegations will continue to be pursued.”
Mr. Trump also spoke highly of his attorney general in a tweet announcing the resignation, creating a contrast to the highly critical comments he made over the weekend.
“Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “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.”
In a subsequent tweet, Mr. Trump called Mr. Rosen “an outstanding person.” Richard Donoghue, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will take over Mr. Rosen’s role as the No. 2 official at the Justice Department.
A White House official said Mr. Barr resigned of his own accord, and noted that his resignation letter shows he “thinks highly” of the president.
“He wasn’t pushed out or forced to resign,” the official said.
Rumors that Mr. Barr’s time as attorney general was ending had been circulating for weeks, after he had become the target of increased criticism from Mr. Trump and Republicans for disputing claims of election irregularities.
That criticism ramped up over the weekend after media reports surfaced that Mr. Barr had shielded two Justice Department probes into Mr. Biden’s son Hunter from the public and Congress.
The younger Mr. Biden disclosed this week that he is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Delaware on possible tax crimes. That investigation has been going on since 2018.
On Saturday morning, Mr. Trump lashed out at Mr. Barr, in a sharp contrast to the effusive tweets he sent Monday.
The president retweeted a post that said the attorney general “should be fired by the end of business today.” In a separate post, Mr. Trump called Mr. Barr “a big disappointment!”
“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!” he tweeted.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said Monday however that keeping the Hunter Biden probes under wraps was the right call, citing Justice Department policy from disclosing politically charged investigations that could influence an election.
“I think he did an incredibly good job trying to repair the damage done at the Department of Justice,” Mr. Graham told reporters. “I think he’s got a lot to be proud of.”
But even before Mr. Trump’s eruption over the Hunter Biden revelation, speculation had been growing that Mr. Barr intended to step down.
The Washington Post reported this month that he first proposed the idea with close associates just after Election Day, when it was clear that Mr. Biden had won. Had Mr. Trump won, he had planned to stay on for at least part of a second term, according to the same report.
When Mr. Barr served under Mr. Bush, he stayed on until the administration’s final week. However, it is not uncommon for Cabinet secretaries to leave their position before the end of a lame-duck presidency.
The resignation ends a tenure in which Mr. Barr engendered criticism from the left who accused him of acting as the president’s personal attorney.
They accused Mr. Barr of issuing a favorable summary of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in 2019, blasted his defense of Mr. Trump’s use of executive power during impeachment proceedings, and decried his intervening to defend the president in a defamation suit brought by a woman who alleged Mr. Trump had sexually assaulted her decades ago.
His intervention in the criminal cases against two of Mr. Trump’s close associates, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, prompted prosecutors overseeing the charges to resign, some from the Justice Department altogether.
“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. Barr refused to play along with President Trump’s nonsensical claims to have won the election,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat.
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