Barr has been one of Trump’s most loyal and effective Cabinet secretaries, often drawing intense criticism for controversial moves at the Justice Department that seem to benefit the president’s friends or allies. But on Tuesday, Barr became the highest-ranking administration official to break with Trump over his election fraud claims, speaking with the AP to say he had not seen evidence of fraud so widespread that it could actually change the outcome.
The interview did not deter Trump. On Wednesday, the president posted to his Facebook page a 46-minute video in which he gave a speech doubling down on his unfounded claims.
Barr’s comments carried caveats. He did not rule out any instances of fraud or election irregularities, and he said the Justice Department had launched some inquiries. But he said most of the claims of fraud that had come to the department generally were “very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. They are not systemic allegations.”
After the interview, a Justice Department spokesperson noted in a statement that Barr had not “announced an affirmative finding of no fraud in the election,” and added, “The Department will continue to receive and vigorously pursue all specific and credible allegations of fraud as expeditiously as possible.”
But Barr’s comments nonetheless won some credit with those who have been skeptical in the past.
“Barr’s confirmation that the Department of Justice found no evidence of widespread voter fraud was welcome, especially after he had suggested before the election the potential for such fraud,” said Richard Hasen, an election law expert who has criticized the attorney general’s past statements about the election. “Barr’s statement can be seen as a belated recognition that Trump’s fraud charges are hurting the country, or perhaps a way to prevent Trump from continuing to pressure Barr to produce evidence where none exists.”…
An associate of Barr’s, speaking on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations, said Barr decided to speak to the AP in part because he knew questions about the election would continue well beyond his departure from the Justice Department.
“He has to leave, and he does not want there be questions about whether the department was sitting idly by under his watch with respect to investigating fraud,” the associate said.
The person said that there might have been some level of fraud or other irregularities with the election but that the Justice Department’s role was to look for crimes, not to conduct audits or assess the efficacy of the voting process. The associate said Barr thought Congress should examine the matter to “look into what he would say is sloppiness with this election” and to “clean it up going forward.”