President Donald Trump raised the prospect of firing Attorney General William Barr in a meeting on Friday, but it’s unclear whether he’ll choose to dismiss Barr before the end of his term next month.
A person familiar with the matter told CNN that Trump was furious in the meeting with advisers at the White House that Barr had worked to keep the federal investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes from becoming public before the November election.
Trump was also upset at reports Barr was considering departing the administration before January 20, believing the leaks to be self-serving.
Trump told officials he is serious about replacing Barr, but whether he actually goes ahead with the move remains in question. He has been encouraged by advisers over the past several months not to do so.
Trump spent Saturday morning issuing angry tweets about his attorney general – in one instance, sharing a tweet that encouraged firing Barr by the “end of business today.” But Trump spent the better part of a year fuming about Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions, before firing him, so it’s far from clear whether his anger will manifest in an immediate dismissal.
Barr has decided, for the moment, to stay on until the end of Trump’s term unless he thinks the President is going to fire him, according to a source familiar with the dynamic between the two men, who Friday described a serious breakdown in communication, saying the “relationship is a Cold War.”
“Barr cannot be intimidated by Trump. This is the real story. None of this matters – it’s the deposed king ranting. Irrelevant to the course of justice and to Trump’s election loss,” the source said Saturday following Trump’s tweets.
Trump and Barr had a “contentious,” lengthy meeting inside the West Wing last week, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
Trump was frustrated at the time with Barr over his recent comments that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread election fraud.
Reports then followed that Barr has been weighing leaving his post before Trump leaves office. A source with knowledge of the matter told CNN that Barr is unhappy with Trump and that the attorney general “is not someone who takes bullying and turns the other cheek!”
The President declined last Thursday to say whether he had confidence in Barr, a sign that he has fallen out of Trump’s favor.
CNN reported earlier this week that federal authorities are now actively investigating the business dealings of Hunter Biden in foreign countries, mainly China. His father, President-elect Joe Biden, is not implicated.
Activity in the investigation had gone covert in recent months due to Department of Justice guidelines prohibiting overt actions that could affect an election, a person with knowledge of the probe told CNN.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.