Bill Barr is bouncing a few weeks early.
The U.S. attorney general announced that he would resign from office before the end of the year, and nearly a month before President Donald Trump’s presidency ends January 20.
“As discussed, I will spend the next week wrapping up the few remaining matters important to the administration and depart on December 23,” Barr wrote in a praise-laden letter to Trump that the president released on Twitter.
The announcement came within minutes of President-elect Joe Biden officially winning the Electoral College vote in a possible effort by Trump to steal the spotlight and distract from yet another blow to his furious attempts to deny Biden’s election victory.
Barr’s letter is packed with praise of Trump, but it opens with an oblique reference to why he might be leaving early. Barr writes of the importance to “assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in the integrity of the outcome.” The outgoing attorney general has long done Trump’s bidding, but he refused to follow the president in claiming that the election was stolen from him.
Barr fell out of favor with Trump when he told the Associated Press two weeks ago: “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” comments that were widely read as a rebuke to Trump’s inchoate and fact-free claims and his supporters’ increasingly brazen and undemocratic attempts to do his bidding and overturn Biden’s democratic election.
That fact-based comment didn’t please Trump, who has in recent days retweeted calls to fire his attorney general and refused to say that he had confidence in Barr.
Trump sought to downplay any rift, claiming he and Barr had a “very nice meeting” and saying the “relationship has been a very good one” as he announced Barr’s premature departure.