Trump’s attorney general just took a pair of pliers and a blowtorch to the president’s ongoing and bizarre election conspiracy theories.
There’s simply no evidence to back up Trump’s assertion that the election was stolen from him, Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press in an interview published Tuesday.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP.
Barr told the agency that federal prosecutors and FBI agents have been following up specific complaints and other possible leads they’ve received but so far haven’t uncovered the kind of evidence that might flip an election — or anything close.
The comments mark a stunning take-down of Trump by Barr, who has long ranked among Trump’s most loyal and subservient acolytes. Barr has rankled longtime Department of Justice employees and career prosecutors over the widespread perception that he has turned the department into Trump’s personal law firm, and used the criminal justice system to protect Trump’s friends and punish his enemies.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Barr suddenly grew a backbone and challenged Trump on his election conspiracies after bending over backwards to serve Trump’s private interests for years. But he made clear in the brief remarks reported Tuesday that he has little patience for the bonkers theories expounded on by the likes of Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani, or the quasi-independent pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
Giuliani and Powell have put forward the groundless claim that widespread voter fraud across multiple states cost Trump the election.. Powell has pushed a bizarre theory that former Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who has been dead for years, somehow launched a plot to invent a computer system used in the 2020 election that flipped votes away from Trump.
Even some of Trump’s strongest allies on the right, like Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson, have noted that Powell’s outlandish ideas aren’t backed up by evidence.
Barr appeared to take aim at Powell without mentioning her by name on Tuesday.
“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 [Department of Homeland Security] and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”
Earlier in November, Barr signaled an eagerness to investigate the possibility of voter fraud. He issued a directive allowing federal prosecutors to investigate any substantive allegations of voting irregularities, even though there wasn’t any particularly good reason to suspect widespread fraud, despite Trump’s bombastic, nonsensical claims.
Barr is now among the ranks of Republican officials and longtime Trump allies who have resisted the president’s claims, a list that includes Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp and the state’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Moments after the Barr interview was published, Giuliani and his protege on the Trump campaign legal team, Jenna Ellis, fired back.
In carefully couched language, Giuliani and Ellis accused Barr of mouthing off without having his facts straight—an accusation that, ironically, has frequently been lobbed at Giuliani himself because of his rambling and semi-coherent interviews on cable news.
“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,” their statement read.