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Trump’s attorney general resigns as Justice Department investigates president

US Attorney General Bill Barr submitted cordial resignation letter amid Justice Department investigation

US Attorney General William Barr waits to testify during a US House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing, April 9, 2019. AFP 
US Attorney General William Barr waits to testify during a US House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing, April 9, 2019. AFP 

US Attorney General Bill Barr resigned on Monday after a series of high-profile disagreements with President Donald Trump, including his refusal this month to back the president’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the election.

But Mr Barr’s departure could portend a turbulent end to the Trump administration as the Justice Department continues to investigate the president's personal finances and his conduct while in office.

“At the end of an administration, there are a lot of protocols administrations have to go through in terms of document retention,” Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, told The National.

“And that could be a challenge with some of these people. They may want to get rid of documents and that would put the Department of Justice in a very difficult situation.”

Mr Trump has reportedly shown keen interest in recent weeks in using the president’s pardoning power to protect his political allies.

Last month he went so far as to commute the sentence of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI during the Justice Department’s probe into Russia’s 2016 election interference.

The Justice Department is investigating an alleged bribery-for-pardon scheme in the Trump White House.

“Barr wants to make sure he has no legal culpability over any legal problem that may emerge over the next month,” Mr West said.

“White House officials are supposed to keep all documents, and they go into the national archives. That includes emails, paper documents and other communications, and people may worry about that and not fully respect that.

"That would be a problem from a Justice Department standpoint.”

Mr Barr has acted as a buffer for the president, shielding him from myriad investigations during his time as attorney general.

In one instance, Mr Barr’s Justice Department sided with the president against a federal prosecutor in New York who unsuccessfully tried to subpoena the president’s tax returns.

And the Justice Department sought to use government lawyers to defend Mr Trump against E Jean Caroll’s allegations that he raped her in the 1990s.

But once Mr Trump returns to life as a private citizen on January 20, he will find himself largely at the mercy of the Justice Department’s independent investigations.

Updated: December 17, 2020 02:03 AM

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