Attorney General William Barr may leave his post at the Justice Department before his boss, President Donald Trump, has the chance to axe him. Barr, whose fate came into question last week after he publicly undercut Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election-altering fraud, is considering stepping down from his job before the Trump administration ends next month and could announce his early departure before year’s end, the New York Times reports.
Trump was supposedly furious last week after Barr, one of his most loyal allies, stated that the Justice Department had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” an acknowledgement contradicting the baseless charges put forth by Trump—as well as the right-wing media—in an attempt to rewrite his loss. The perceived betrayal, coupled with the president’s reported anger at Barr’s handling of a probe into the 2016 investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, suggested there was trouble in paradise. Trump bolstered such speculation at a White House event last week following Barr’s statement, with the president claiming Barr had not looked hard enough for evidence of voter fraud and refusing to rule out a possible termination. According to NBC News, asked whether he still had confidence in his attorney general, Trump said: “Ask me that in a number of weeks from now.”
The attorney general breaking with Trump’s attempt to overturn the election outcome, as well as Trump lashing out against Barr thereafter, was something of a departure for the dynamic duo, who have maintained an amicable relationship during their time together. Yet according to the Times, Barr “had been weighing his departure since before last week” and “Trump had not affected the attorney general’s thinking.” Another source told the Times that Barr “had concluded that he had completed the work that he set out to accomplish at the Justice Department.”
Barr’s early exit would “deprive the president of a cabinet officer who has wielded the power of the Justice Department more deeply in service of a president’s political agenda than any attorney general in a half-century,” the Times reports, though the decision may be welcome news to Trump allies who, amid Barr’s recent refusal to embrace Trump’s post-election delusion, have called for his departure. Early on in the election aftermath, however, the attorney general was willing to advance Trump’s evidence-free allegations of voter fraud, and was outspoken throughout Trump’s campaign in warning, also without evidence, that mail-in ballots would lead to widespread election fraud.
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