Barr breaks with Trump on claims of fraud

Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday said there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, undercutting President Trump’s repeated baseless claims to the contrary.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told The Associated Press in an interview.

Barr’s comments are his first about the integrity of the election since it took place one month ago, and they mark the latest rebuke of Trump’s efforts to undermine the results. The attorney general is the highest-ranking administration official and Republican to date to contradict Trump’s claims about the election.

Barr told the AP, a wire service whose stories run in newspapers across the country, that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been following up on specific complaints following the election but have yet to discover anything on a scale that would overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Trump has for weeks made the false claim that the election was stolen from him, arguing almost daily that there are enough fraudulent votes in major cities in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia that would change the outcome. But his legal team has yet to provide any such evidence in court, with several lawsuits being dismissed for lack of standing.

Barr on Tuesday appeared to knock down one theory propagated by attorney Sidney Powell, who recently worked alongside Trump’s legal team, that Dominion Voting Systems machines were used to change votes and were backed by communist money.

“There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results,” Barr said. “And the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] and DOJ [Department of Justice] have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”

Barr’s clear dismissal of Powell’s claims come as she and other Trump backers have spread inflammatory ideas on social media urging the president to suspend the election results and invoke the Insurrection Act.

Trump’s campaign lawyers brushed aside Barr’s comments in a statement of their own on Tuesday.

“With all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation,” Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said, complaining that the department has not thoroughly vetted their claims of irregularities in “at least six states.”

“Again, with the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud,” Giuliani and Ellis added despite their failure to present credible evidence of systemic fraud.

Trump on Sunday questioned why the Justice Department and the FBI were not doing more to investigate his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, saying the bureau was “missing in action.”

Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin are among the states that have certified Biden as the winner but where Trump is still levying unproven claims that the results are fraudulent.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declared the 2020 election the “most secure in American history” last month. Trump fired its now-former director, Christopher Krebs, for the statement.

The Republican secretary of state in Georgia has repeatedly defended the state’s election integrity, and the GOP governors of Arizona and Georgia have signed off on their respective states’ results. A handful of Republican senators and governors have referred to Biden as the president-elect, but none are ardent Trump supporters.

Trump has lashed out at several of those officials for breaking with him, but it may be harder to brush aside Barr’s comments given his standing in the president’s orbit and his reputation as a loyal Cabinet official.

Barr has long been criticized by Democrats and government watchdog groups for defending Trump and blurring the lines of impartiality between the Justice Department and the White House.

The Justice Department stepped in to defend Trump in a defamation suit brought by a woman who alleged the president had sexually assaulted her; Barr was accused of issuing a favorable summary of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in 2019; he defended Trump’s use of executive power; and he sided with Trump in taking an aggressive approach to nationwide racial injustice protests over the summer.

In another move expected to satisfy Trump, Barr announced Tuesday that he had appointed the prosecutor investigating the origins of the 2016 Russia probe as a special counsel, which will allow U.S. Attorney John Durham to continue his work even after the Biden administration takes over in January.

Barr appointed Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut who has been investigating the origins of the Russia investigation since May 2019, as special counsel on Oct. 19, according to an order obtained by The Hill. But the move was announced on Tuesday shortly after the AP interview was published, potentially providing cover for Barr to break with Trump on the election matter.

Barr was seen arriving at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after his interview with the AP was published. A Justice Department spokesperson said Barr was not there to speak with Trump, and the meeting was previously scheduled.

Still, Barr’s appearance at the White House so soon after the AP story was published triggered speculation about whether his job may be at risk in the final weeks of the Trump administration.

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden John Durham Robert Mueller Rudy Giuliani William Barr
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