Barr and Giuliani clash over allegations of election fraudDecember 1, 2020
Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday said that there was no evidence of large-scale fraud during this year’s election, prompting a stern rebuke from President Donald Trump’s legal team as the president continues in his efforts to negate the results.
Normally a dependable deputy to the president, Barr contradicted Trump’s persistent allegations of a stolen election in an interview to The Associated Press. Trump’s legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, has insisted on investigations into what they say are troubling irregularities but are actually normal errors expected in any election. The president’s critics have called out the efforts as a thinly veiled power grab.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr said, according to the AP.
Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the campaign, hit back at Barr only minutes after the AP reported his remarks. The two claimed that the Justice Department had not sufficiently investigated allegations of election irregularities and had failed to interview witnesses who claimed to see illegal behavior.
Trump’s legal team has peddled eyebrow-raising conspiracy theories about the election, in spite of election officials in states across the country affirming the vote was fair. Attorney Sidney Powell, in particular, has made waves for falsely alleging instances of foreign interference and voting machines changing votes against voters’ will. Trump’s legal team distanced itself from Powell shortly after.
“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 said in a statement.
But their statement is at odds with Barr’s remarks to the AP, in which he attests that most claims were of one-off instances and have been followed up on. A Justice Department spokesperson also said Tuesday that the department would continue to review and investigate any allegations of malfeasance, and reemphasized that Barr never ruled out the possibility of election fraud.
“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all, and people don’t like something, they want the Department of Justice to come in and ‘investigate,’” Barr said.
The attorney general’s breaking from Trump’s claims stands in stark contrast to his previous, careful support of many of the president’s allegations. In the lead-up to the election, Barr supported the president’s claims that mail-in ballots were vulnerable to mass fraud — an unsubstantiated notion that could have had a serious impact as an unprecedented number of Americans voted by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has lashed out at members of his own party for failing to support his legal challenges. Republican Govs. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Brian Kemp of Georgia, in particular, have been targets after they certified their states’ votes for Joe Biden. Trump fired Chris Krebs as the head of U.S. cybersecurity shortly after he said this year’s election was among the safest in history.
Just after the AP reported his remarks, Barr was spotted by reporters at the White House. A White House official told POLITICO that Barr met with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone for a prescheduled meeting.
Barr has been among Trump‘s most loyal allies, playing a critical role during the federal investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 election. During his AP interview, he revealed that he had granted special counsel authority to the U.S. attorney investigating the origins and conduct of federal probes into the 2016 election.
The move largely shields John Durham, the attorney, from getting fired, particularly as a Democratic administration takes over in January.
Durham‘s probe has faint legitimacy in the eyes of Democrats, who largely view it as retaliation for the investigations into the 2016 election that defined the first half of the Trump presidency.
Nancy Cook and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.