William Barr: who is the US Attorney General and Trump ally - and why is he stepping down early?

Tensions arose between the president and Mr Barr over the investigation into election fraud

William Barr is to step down as US attorney general before Christmas.

The staunch ally of President Trump had been due to leave his role on January 20 when the 45th president leaves office, but will now leave his role before December 25.

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His relationship with Trump has fractured in recent weeks with the outgoing president criticising Barr for not disclosing that Joe Biden’s son was under investigation during the election campaign. Barr also drew the ire of Trump when he said there was no evidence of widespread fraud at the November election.

William Barr is stepping down from his role as US attorney general one month early (Getty Images)

Despite the breakdown in relationship, Trump praised Barr following the news, tweeting: "our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!"

Why is William Barr leaving his role early?

Rumours of a rift between the two have been public for some time now.

The president has been pushing theories of widespread fraud at the November election, and Barr’s decision to not lend support drew a wedge between the two of them.

This might not be a case of Barr being forced out, however. Despite his status as a lame-duck president, Trump looks set to oversee a raft of pardons of high profile officials.

By removing himself from office early, Barr can avoid overseeing any controversial acts of clemency.

Who is William Barr?

William Barr was nominated to succeed Jeff Sessions as US attorney general on December 7, 2018, assuming office the following February.

This was the second time he held the office, having served as US attorney general under George H. W. Bush between 1991 and 1993.

Barr will likely be remembered favourably by the president and his allies for his handling of the Robert Mueller report on the Investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Prior to the reports release, Barr framed the findings in a manner favourable to Trump, despite Mueller saying that he couldn’t exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice.

Supporters of Trump turned on him recently, however, when Barr said that there was no evidence to support the president’s claims of voter fraud.

What has Donald Trump said?

Donald Trump broke the news via his favourite medium, Twitter.

He wrote: “Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House. Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job! As per letter, Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family...

“...Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, an outstanding person, will become Acting Attorney General. Highly respected Richard Donoghue will be taking over the duties of Deputy Attorney General. Thank you to all!”