Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud
Washington: Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the US Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.
Barr’s comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month’s voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.
Barr told the AP that US attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies.
Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.
More to Trump’s liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed US Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him.
Biden hasn’t said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn’t comment Tuesday.
Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was coordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.
Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.
Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.
Trump didn’t directly comment on the attorney general’s remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, “with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president’s complaints.
Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump’s allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it’s not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.
Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”
Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.