Attorney General William Barr is reportedly thinking about leaving office before Inauguration Day in January.
According to reports published on Sunday, the nation’s chief law officer could be stepping down even before the year is out. The reports come after Barr has faced intense backlash from the president’s supporters after appearing to not back claims of election fraud that have kept Trump from conceding the 2020 presidential race.
Sources told ABC News last week that Barr had an “intense” meeting with the president after he had reportedly told the Associated Press that the Justice Department had not seen any evidence of widespread fraud in the election, despite allegations to the contrary by the Trump campaign’s lawyers.
A statement from the DOJ had soon-after hit back at news outlets that had “incorrectly reported” Barr’s comments. On Sunday, The New York Times and the Washington Post cited sources claiming the attorney general may be looking to resign before the end of Trump’s first term in January.
Citing three people “familiar with this thinking,” The Times noted that it was not clear whether Trump’s refusal to concede the election to Democratic challenger Joe Biden or his anger over the DOJ’s weak handling of reported election fraud, had any influence on Barr’s alleged decision.
According to The New York Times:
One of the people insisted that Mr. Barr had been weighing his departure since before last week and that Mr. Trump had not affected the attorney general’s thinking. Another said Mr. Barr had concluded that he had completed the work that he set out to accomplish at the Justice Department.
Mr. Barr has not made a final decision, and the prospect of him staying on through Jan. 20 remains a possibility, the people familiar with his thinking cautioned.
The 70-year-old official has been a powerful member of the president’s Cabinet, having been appointed by Trump in November 2019 to replace Jeff Sessions, who was seen as a weak attorney general who had failed to confront Trump’s critics, pushing the Russia collusion hoax and the special counsel investigation.
The Washington Post appeared to confirm the report in The Times on Sunday, saying that “people close to the attorney general, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations, said Barr’s contemplation of resigning before Jan. 20 predates that fresh burst of criticism from the right” about the DOJ’s failure to overturn the election.
According to The Washington Post:
Barr first broached the topic with associates shortly after Election Day, when it became clear that former vice president Joe Biden had won, according to one person familiar with the conversation. Before the election, Barr had told friends that if Trump won, he would like to stay on as attorney general for some time in the second term.
One adviser to the president told The Washington Post last week that Barr could be fired. The New York Times reported Sunday that the attorney general was considering stepping down before mid-January…
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP last week, setting off a wave of backlash.
After the reported meeting with the president last week following the comments, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not say directly whether Trump had lost faith in his attorney general.
“If we have any personnel announcements, I’ll let you know,” she responded to a reporter’s question. “I know the attorney general was here yesterday for a preplanned meeting with the chief of staff [Mark Meadows] and they discussed an array of issues but I’m not aware if the president has spoken to him directly.”
A DOJ spokesperson had fired back at the media’s characterizations of Barr’s comments to the AP.
“Some media outlets have incorrectly reported that the Department has concluded its investigation of election fraud and announced an affirmative finding of no fraud in the election,” the spokesperson said, according to ABC News. “That is not what the Associated Press reported nor what the Attorney General stated. The Department will continue to receive and vigorously pursue all specific and credible allegations of fraud as expeditiously as possible.”
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro blasted Barr as a “reptile” during the opening statement on her show over the weekend, slamming him for his “premature comments” about the outcome of election investigations.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) December 6, 2020
“We need answers. We need action. We need justice,” the former New York state court judge and prosecutor said in a scathing rebuke of the attorney general. “And you, Mr. Barr, are so deep in the swamp you can’t see beyond your fellow reptiles, and you are not the exceptional leader needed at this exceptional time in history.”