President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.
Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.
- In the interview, Barr also revealed he'd appointed Durham, a veteran prosecutor, as special counsel on Oct. 19 to continue investigating the origins of the FBI's 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia no matter who won the presidential election.
Behind the scenes: Within Trump's orbit, sources told Axios, Tuesday's revelation was seen as a smokescreen to forestall the release of the so-called Durham Report, which senior administration officials believe is already complete — and which Barr had ruled out issuing before the election.
- Another senior administration official disputed that assessment, saying: “The reason the Attorney General appointed John Durham as Special Counsel is because he’s not finished with his investigation," and that Barr "wanted to ensure that John Durham would be able to continue his work independently and unimpeded.”
- Trump has been ranting about the delay behind the scenes and mused privately about replacing Barr with somebody who will expedite the process. But it’s unclear whether he will follow through with that, per sources familiar with the conversations.
- Barr met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and other officials in the West Wing Tuesday afternoon.