Former Attorney General Bill Barr has been called “lazy” and “cowardly” by former President Donald Trump, while Barr has described Trump as “off the rails” and called his push to discredit the 2020 election “a farce.”
Yet despite the ugly back and forth between the two, Barr said on TODAY Monday that he would still vote for Trump in the 2024 presidential election if Trump becomes the Republican nominee.
"Because I believe that the greatest threat to the country is the progressive agenda being pushed by the Democratic Party, it's inconceivable to me that I wouldn't vote for the Republican nominee," Barr told Savannah Guthrie. "It's hard to project what the facts are going to turn out to be three years hence, but as of now, it's hard for me to conceive that I wouldn't vote for the Republican nominee."
A closer look at AG William Barr’s time in the Trump administrationMarch 7, 202201:27
However, Barr said he does not believe Trump is fit to the be the nominee in two years.
"Well, I certainly have made it clear. I don't think he should be our nominee and I'm going to support somebody else for the nominee," he said.
Barr details his turbulent 22-month tenure under Trump in a new book, “One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General," that comes out on Tuesday.
In a response to NBC News' questions about the memoir, Trump sent a three-page letter that called Bar "slow and lethargic, so lazy and cowardly," and said Barr "didn't want to stand up to the radical left Democrats because he thought the repercussions to him personally in the form of impeachment would be too severe. In other words, Bill Barr was the coward."
Barr called Trump's letter "par for the course."
"The president is a man who when he is told something he doesn't want to hear, he immediately throws a tantrum and attacks a person personally," Barr said. "I thought the letter was childish."
The rift with Trump comes after a tenure in which critics said Barr politicized the Justice Department and seemingly acted like Trump’s personal lawyer instead of an independent figure. Barr denied that characterization in an interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt that aired on Sunday night.
“The narrative was I was a 'toady' to Trump and I would do Trump’s bidding. And the media constantly went out with that story,” Barr told Holt. “Well, I think no, because I tried to take every issue that came to me and decide it what I thought was the right thing.”
Barr said that his break with Trump in December 2020 came when Trump became “enraged” after Barr informed him that there was no evidence that the 2020 election was fraudulent. Barr resigned in Dec. 14, the day the Electoral College formalized President Joe Biden’s victory.
"There was no 'stealing of the election' fraud, which means that people who were not qualified to vote or didn't exist, their votes were counted, or that good votes were subtracted," Barr said. "The vote reflected the decision of the people."
Barr was asked why he wasn't more forthcoming in his resignation letter about how there was no evidence of widespread election fraud and that the president's actions to overturn the election were dangerous.
He said that by the day of his resignation, the election "was over, for all intents and purposes" because the states had certified the vote.
"The idea that something could be done later on Jan. 6 was nonsense," he said. "And the once the election was locked in on Dec. 14, I tendered my resignation. And I knew Trump was going to be leaving office."
Bill Barr: I think Trump was responsible for Jan. 6 'in the broad sense’March 4, 202203:25
Barr wrote in his book that in the final months of his administration "Trump cared only about one thing himself, country and principle took second place." He added that Trump has "no concern with ideology or political principle" and that his motive is "revenge."
"He was always hard to work with and resistant to advice, but you can usually keep things on track," Barr said. "But after the election, he went off the rails. He wouldn't listen to anybody except a little coterie of sycophants who were telling him what he wanted to hear."
Barr admitted to underestimating the lengths Trump would go to try to overturn the election results.
"I was surprised," he said. "I thought it was a farce because of there was no substance to it, there was no legal support for it."
He also said he believed Trump was responsible for the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but said he doesn’t think the former president was legally culpable.
“I do think he was responsible in the broad sense of that word, in that it appears that part of the plan was to send this group up to the Hill,” Barr said on Nightly News. “I think the whole idea was to intimidate Congress. And I think that that was wrong.”
Barr also answered criticism that he should have spoken out about Trump while he was still attorney general and that his book is part of a tour to rehabilitate his image.
"People who know me know I don't really care what people think about me, and I think that's one of the reasons I was persuaded to take the attorney general job because I'm wasn't looking for anything," he said. "I don't have a future career. I'm retired. I felt I could just call them as I see him, and anyone who tries to satisfy and win the approval of others is going to be compromised very quickly."
Barr also faced criticism for clearing Trump of obstruction of justice following the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 election. Barr released a four-page letter ahead of Mueller’s report that Mueller said “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.”
"It is a phony scandal," Barr said on TODAY about the Russia investigation. "People talking about the 'big lie' after the election forget that it was a big lie in the beginning of the Trump administration."