US Attorney General William Barr has sent his resignation letter to Donald Trump, who announced his departure moments after California’s Electoral College cast its definitive votes ensuring Joe Biden’s victory.
In his place, the president has appointed Jeffrey Rosen – Mr Barr’s current deputy attorney general – as the acting attorney general. He will be the fifth attorney general under the Trump administration, the most appointed to the role for a one-term president. The role will be filled for less than a month, at most – president-elect Biden will be sworn into office on 20 January. Mr Biden has not announced his pick for the role.
Richard Donoghue, who works within Mr Rosen’s office, has been tapped as Mr Rosen’s No. 2.
Mr Rosen – who the president called “an outstanding person” – had previously served under Elaine Chao as deputy Transportation Secretary before his appointment to the Justice Department, replacing Rod Rosenstein as then-deputy attorney general.
He was confirmed by the Senate by a party-line vote of 52-49 in May 2019, despite a lack of experience with both the Justice Department and as a prosecutor.
The deputy office oversees day-to-day affairs at the Justice Department, including its litigation, US attorneys offices, and activities across several law enforcement agencies.
In recent months, the president has clashed with his attorney general, as Mr Trump has sought to rely on the Justice Department as a political cudgel in the waning days of his post-election outrage despite its ostensible independence from the executive office. Two days before Mr Barr announced his resignation, amid reports that he told Justice Department officials to prevent investigations into Mr Biden’s son Hunter from going public, the president lashed out on Twitter.
On 12 December, the president said: “Why didn’t Bill Barr reveal the truth to the public, before the Election, about Hunter Biden. Joe was lying on the debate stage that nothing was wrong, or going on – Press confirmed. Big disadvantage for Republicans at the polls!”
He has also been critical of the Justice Department’s investigations into allegations of voter fraud, and he said he was “not happy” about the Justice Department’s refusal to prosecute former president Barack Obama following a criminal investigation and the president’s baseless accusations against his predecessor and his administration.
Prior to his role in the Trump administration, Mr Rosen joined the Office of Management and Budget as its general counsel and senior policy adviser under former president George W Bush. He remained in the role until 2009.
Mr Rosen also is partner with one of the world’s most profitable law firms Kirkland & Ellis, which has represented a wide array of controversial clients, including Bain Capital, BP and Jeffrey Epstein. Mr Barr – along with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and former national security adviser John Bolton – are among its alumni.
He returned to the firm after leaving OMB in 2009 and remained there until his appointment in 2019.
Mr Barr’s final day in office is 23 December.