McConnell urged Barr to speak out on Trump’s election claims
Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) privately urged former Attorney General William Barr to refute unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, in part because he thought it would ensure GOP victories in two Georgia Senate runoff elections.
McConnell had not publicly criticized former President Trump’s claims of fraud, in part because he believed it would enrage Trump to the point that he would sabotage the two Georgia runoffs.
But the Kentucky Republican had been telling Barr privately since mid-November that Trump’s claims were damaging to the party and to the country, according to an excerpt of the upcoming book “Betrayal” by ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl published in The Atlantic on Sunday.
Barr and McConnell both confirmed the account to Karl.
“Look, we need the president in Georgia,” McConnell told Barr, according to the excerpt. “And so we cannot be frontally attacking him right now. But you’re in a better position to inject some reality into this situation. You are really the only one who can do it.”
“I understand that,” Barr said. “And I’m going to do it at the appropriate time.”
In another call, Karl wrote that McConnell pleaded with Barr to dispel the widespread election fraud claims.
“Bill, I look around, and you are the only person who can do it,” McConnell told him.
Republicans ultimately lost both Georgia runoff elections and control of the chamber.
The excerpt also details Barr’s relationship with Trump in the final weeks of the administration when he decided to give prosecutors approval to investigate the fraud claims and opened his own unofficial inquiry into the matter.
“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr told Karl. “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.”