In October, Mr. Barr secretly appointed Mr. Durham to serve as special counsel to continue his work. The move gave Mr. Durham independence from a possible Biden administration and made it very difficult for a new attorney general to end his investigation, all but ensuring the Durham inquiry would live on after Mr. Trump left office.
“In advance of the presidential election, I decided to appoint Mr. Durham as a special counsel to provide him and his team with the assurance that they could complete their work, without regard to the outcome of the election,” Mr. Barr wrote in a letter that he submitted to Congress in December.
Dozens of Mr. Trump’s U.S. attorneys have already resigned, in the weeks before and after the election, leaving those offices in the hands of acting officials. While Mr. Durham and several more U.S. attorneys are expected to join them this week, that cohort will not include the leaders of the largest, most prominent federal prosecutor’s offices: Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, who was appointed to her position by the courts, and Michael R. Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, who is an acting official and was not confirmed by the Senate.
Both Ms. Strauss and Mr. Sherwin were elevated to their roles amid upheaval and controversy that stemmed from Mr. Barr’s handling of politically delicate cases involving Mr. Trump.
Ms. Strauss was made the acting U.S. attorney after her boss, Geoffrey S. Berman, angered the White House with his handling of cases against Mr. Trump’s associates and ultimately refused to leave when Mr. Barr tried to replace him. The standoff between the two men ended when Mr. Barr allowed Ms. Strauss, a registered Democrat, to lead the office. Federal judges in her district, exercising a rarely used power, formally appointed her to the position in December.
Mr. Sherwin was tapped to lead the Washington office after his predecessor was removed amid a contentious decision by Mr. Barr to force prosecutors to lower a sentencing recommendation for one of Mr. Trump’s allies, Roger J. Stone Jr. Mr. Sherwin has since emerged as the face of the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
Mr. Sherwin could remain at the department to work on the Capitol riots investigation, even after the administration nominates a new U.S. attorney, according to a person with knowledge of the deliberations.