US Attorney General William Barr will be step down just before Christmas and Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will become acting attorney general, President Donald Trump has announced.
Barr, in a letter to Trump posted by the Republican president on Twitter, said he would leave his post on December 23.
Barr wrote in the resignation letter he was “greatly honored” to have served under the Trump administration, and lauded the president’s “many successes and unprecedented achievements” in the face of “relentless, implacable resistance”.
The Justice Department “worked tirelessly to protect the public from violent crime” while it “cracked down” on China’s “explotiation of our economy” while “working with Mexico’s leaders to fight drug cartels”, Barr wrote.
The attorney general said he would remain in office to finish matters “important to the Administration” before his departure.
…Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, an outstanding person, will become Acting Attorney General. Highly respected Richard Donoghue will be taking over the duties of Deputy Attorney General. Thank you to all! pic.twitter.com/V5sqOJT9PM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 14, 2020
Trump said on Twitter his relationship with Barr “has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!”
However, Trump had lashed out at Barr on Twitter over the weekend after the Wall Street Journal reported that Barr knew earlier this year about an investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s taxes.
Trump retweeted a comment from radio host Todd Starnes saying Barr should be fired. “A big disappointment!” Trump said in his tweet.
Barr’s fate in the waning days of the Trump administration had been in question since he said earlier this month that a Justice Department investigation had found no sign of major fraud in the election, contradicting Trump’s claims.
Barr’s resignation letter was released shortly after he briefed the president about the Justice Department’s review into the Trump campaign’s allegations of voter fraud. In it, Barr pledged the allegations “would continue to be pursued”.
The news also came after the Electoral College confirmed Biden’s victory.
In response to the announcement, ACLU National Legal Director David Cole said Barr “was one of the worst attorneys general in US history,” citing Barr’s use of the Justice Department to “interfere” with the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and prosecutions of Trump’s allies.
“He forfeited the Justice Department’s independence and integrity in obeisance to the president. Yet when he was unwilling to repeat Trump’s wholly false claims about voter fraud, Trump essentially dumped him.”
Numerous officials from the Trump administration have resigned, sometimes while at odds with Trump, throughout his term.
Previous Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned in November 2018 after months of conflict with Trump over Session’s recusal from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Aaron Kall, a political analyst at the University of Michigan, told Al Jazeera the acting attorney general could still do a “lot of damage in the last month of the Trump administration”.
“They could appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s issues with tax returns or Trump can order this acting attorney general to investigate claims of election fraud,” Kall told Al Jazeera from Novi in Michigan.
“There’s many people on death row and many pardons – maybe even for President Trump’s family. So there will be a lot of controversial issues and the Department of Justice is in the middle of all of them.”