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Trump hasn't ruled out firing Attorney General Barr, sources say

Barr said Tuesday the Justice Department hadn't seen any evidence of fraud that would have changed the election outcome. Trump said Thursday that Barr "hasn't looked."
Image: William Barr, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr step off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Sept. 1.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

President Donald Trump lashed out at Attorney General William Barr on Thursday, bolstering recent reports that he has lost confidence in Barr, the country's top law enforcement official.

"He hasn't done anything. He hasn't looked" for voter fraud, Trump complained at an event at the White House, adding that Barr's investigators "haven't looked very hard," either, "which is a disappointment, to be honest with you."

Asked whether he still had confidence in his attorney general, Trump said: "Ask me that in a number of weeks from now. They should be looking at all of this fraud. This is not civil. He thought it was civil. This is not civil. This is criminal stuff. This is very bad, criminal stuff." He did not answer follow-up questions about his timeline. Trump's term ends in less than seven weeks.

An administration official and two people familiar with the matter told NBC News on Wednesday that Trump had not ruled out firing Barr but that a sudden departure was not seen as imminent.

No decision has been made, they said, but any call would ultimately be up to Trump.

Barr told The Associated Press on Tuesday that "to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election" — comments that appeared to fly in the face of Trump's baseless and false claims that the election he lost was rigged or that it involved voter fraud.

Trump is displeased with Barr for appearing to break with him over the claims of voter fraud, these sources said.

One of the people familiar with the situation said some people around Trump have tried to persuade him not to fire Barr. The source was also skeptical that Trump would follow through on any firing, noting that he has previously aimed his ire at officials who ended up keeping their jobs.

The Washington Post reported earlier Wednesday that Trump was said to be livid at Barr and that one official suggested that there was a chance he could be fired.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not answer directly when she was asked Wednesday whether Trump had confidence or faith in Barr. She said that if Trump had any personnel changes, they would be announced.

After Barr's comments Tuesday to the AP, the Justice Department said it has not stopped investigating election-related fraud, and it disputed some reports suggesting otherwise.

"Some media outlets have incorrectly reported that the Department has concluded its investigation of election fraud and announced an affirmative finding of no fraud in the election. That is not what the Associated Press reported nor what the Attorney General stated," a Justice Department spokesperson said.

"The Department will continue to receive and vigorously pursue all specific and credible allegations of fraud as expeditiously as possible," the spokesperson said.

If Trump is displeased with Barr, it would not be the first time he has been upset with his attorney general.

Trump repeatedly railed against his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself in a Russian election interference investigation, and he forced Sessions out of the job in November 2018.

Trump's criticisms did not end there, and he supported the man who would then defeat Sessions in this year's Alabama Senate primary, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Phil Helsel contributed.