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Why has William Barr resigned as Attorney General?

Attorney General William Barr has announced that he will be stepping down from his post just before the Christmas holidays, what’s behind the move?

Why has William Barr resigned as Attorney General?
TOM BRENNER REUTERS

The Attorney General William Barr will finish his duties in the role early, on 23 December, it has been announced in a letter posted to the president’s Twitter account. Barr was due to finish on 20 January, when Donald Trump leaves office and president-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

Why did William Barr resign as Attorney General?

Barr’s resignation letter and Donald Trump’s accompanying tweet, both saccharin sweet in tone, belie the fractures that have come before. When Trump constructed his narrative that the whole election had been unfairly won by rival Joe Biden due to widespread voter fraud William Barr chose to publicly go against him.

So the news is hardly the shock of 2020, given that just a matter of weeks ago on 1 December, breaking rank from a relationship that had become very beneficial for both parties, Barr revealed that the justice department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. In the meantime, Trump and his allies have suffered a slew of setbacks in courts up and down the country.

On the allegations of widespread voter fraud, Barr said in an interview with the AP, “there’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DoJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.

Barr went on to assert that the federal criminal justice system was being asked to step in on allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits and reviewed by state or local officials, not the justice department.

Barr added, “there’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all, and, people don’t like something – they want the Department of Justice to come in and ‘investigate’.” Critics say this is the type of dynamic that had developed between Barr and Trump before he broke ranks with the president.

What did Barr’s resignation letter say?

Barr's letter to the president was effusive in praising Trump and his achievements in office. He began by saying he "appreciated the opportunity to update" the president on the Department of Justice's (DOJ) review of voter fraud allegations in the recent election and "how these allegations will continue to be pursued."

He also praised Trump’s resilience in the face of what Barr describes as a “partisan onslaught” that aimed to undermine a duly elected president. “No tactic, no matter how abusive and deceitful, was out of bounds,” Barr wrote.

“Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance,” he continued, adding: “Few could have weathered these attacks, much less forge ahead with a positive program for the country.”

Jeff Rosen, the current deputy attorney general, who Trump called “an outstanding person”, will take over the role of acting attorney general.