It looks like the inevitable fight between Donald Trump and Bill Barr is finally here
Update Dec. 15: Attorney General Bill Barr resigned Monday afternoon. His departure was announced by President Trump on Twitter, with the president saying Barr had done an "outstanding job." Trump also shared Barr's resignation letter, in which Barr wrote that he'd officially leave his post on Dec. 23. The announcement came literally just moments after the Electoral College certified that Joe Biden won the election — and after days of reports of a rift between Barr and Trump after Barr said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Trump has incorrectly insisted he lost the November election due to irregularities, of which he has offered no proof. Our original story appears below.
In the vast pantheon of President Trump's many, many political enablers, perhaps none has been quite as effective and significant that Attorney General Bill Barr. Over the course of his nearly two-year stint as the nation's top lawyer (his second time in the position, having served the same role for President George H.W. Bush), Barr has effectively transformed the Department of Justice into Trump's personal legal team, and gone conspicuously out of his way to seemingly cover for the president's many potential crimes.
But those good times may be coming to an end, with reports that Trump is furious with his top cop and is in fact considering replacing Barr as AG with just weeks left in his term.
The schism between the two broke open earlier this week, after Barr confirmed to the Associated Press that "we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election" — an obvious statement of fact that nevertheless contradicted Trump's increasingly frantic insistence that he was, in fact, the winner of last month's presidential election, and that any evidence to the contrary was simply part of a fraud being perpetrated by Joe Biden, the dishonest media, disloyal state Republicans, and whomever else happened to make him mad that particular day.
Pressed on Thursday as to whether he still had confidence in the man he'd hand-picked to help salvage his presidency from the potentially fatal damage uncovered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump answered cryptically, "Ask me that in a number of weeks from now."
It's unclear what would change about Trump's willingness to discuss Barr between now and then, aside from the fact that "a number of weeks from now" will see both men out of a job with the start of the Biden administration. What's notable about Trump's refusal to publicly back his attorney general is that it came just one day after the two men met at the White House, where the president reportedly unloaded on Barr — although, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins wryly noted, "a person familiar says Trump wasn't screaming," which I suppose is as close to a presidential pivot as we'll ever see from him.
Indeed, Trump was reportedly already furious with Barr for the latter's inability to deliver anything close to the damning "proof" that investigations into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election had all simply been a politically motivated attack against him. That, compounded with Barr's admission that the 2020 election had not been affected by fraud, sent Trump into a rage which The Washington Post reported has prompted several of the president's advisers to scramble and try to talk their boss down from firing Barr on the spot.
To make matters worse, the schism between Trump and Barr comes just as AP reported on Thursday that a top White House aide tasked to serve as a liaison between the president and the Justice Department had been banned from the DOJ's headquarters altogether, after she was accused of trying to pressure staffers there into divulging information about ongoing investigations and cases, including ones pertaining to election fraud. Neither the Justice Department nor the administration official's attorneys provided the AP with comment for their report.
With the mood between the West Wing and the DOJ apparently souring at record speed, and given Trump's penchants for both firing people, and leaping before he looks, it's easy to imagine the final days of his administration could be spent scrambling to find a one last acting attorney general to round out his term in office. However, beyond the obvious difficulties in simply identifying someone qualified enough to take the post in the first place, a larger challenge would likely be in finding someone willing to spend just a few weeks being as accommodating to — and effective for — the president as Barr has been.