Barr Jumps Trump Ship, Rejecting Voter Fraud Claims

Attorney General William Barr leaves the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., on Nov. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Attorney General William Barr delivered the latest blow to the president’s cries of voter fraud, saying Tuesday that such assertions are unsubstantiated.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr said in an interview this afternoon with the Associated Press.

Early last month the Trump appointee had told federal prosecutors to investigate “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities throughout the nation, if they existed.

Barr told the Associated Press that claims of machines switching votes to alter the results of the election were not backed by evidence. The Department of Homeland Security alongside Justice Department investigators found no evidence of machines being programed to fudge results, he said.

“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct,” Barr said. “They are not systematic allegations. And those have been run down; they are being run down. Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on.”

Barr also distinguished what the Justice Department can accomplish with an investigation from what should otherwise be litigated through civil suits. He told the Associated Press that the first step at determining fraud would be through audits of state and local election systems, not through a federal investigation.

“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. 

Meanwhile on Twitter, President Donald Trump continues to assert daily without evidence that he should be crowned the victor of last month’s election, despite results showing that he lost both the popular vote and the Electoral College to his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Trump sought legal intervention almost immediately after November 4 and has most recently filed a challenge to overturn Wisconsin’s certified election results.

Most judges to come across such cases have rejected them as baseless, with zero evidence of fraud.

Trump’s personal attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said Barr’s comments had come without “any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation.”

The pair also pushed back on Barr’s comments of voter machine examination, saying the department had not audited any voter machines, or “used their subpoena powers to determine the truth.” 

“Again, 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,” they said in a statement. 

Barr also made news Tuesday in confirming that he made the appointment several weeks ago for Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney John Durham to serve as special counsel to probe the investigations into the 2016 election.

In a letter addressed to Republican and Democrat leadership on both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Barr said he initially expected Durham to complete his work by the end of this summer. This timeline was frustrated, however, by the pandemic as well as “additional information” Durham uncovered, Barr wrote.

Barr likened Durham’s appointment to the process in which Robert Mueller was tasked to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr told the AP.

Mueller’s had specifically said that the report did not exonerate Trump of obstructing his investigation, but the president has long dismissed the probe as a witch hunt.

But that appointment may be illegal, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, said late Tuesday.

At first blush, Durham’s appointment appears to violate Department of Justice rules requiring that a special counsel be selected from outside of the U.S. government. Durham is presently the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

But a closer review of the order issued by Barr appears to indicate that the attorney general used a bit of clever maneuvering to make the appointment valid. Barr’s order invokes his own discharge authority to appoint a special counsel pursuant to his powers as attorney general.

In public analysis Tuesday evening, Brookings Institute senior fellow Benjamin Wittes noted on Twitter that Barr simultaneously applies special counsel regulations to the appointment except he failed to apply a provision that requires a special counsel to come from outside of the department.

“In other words, Barr used general statutory authority to appoint someone and then by order applied the regulations, including the regulations that limit the special counsel’s removal to that appointment,” Wittes wrote. “Very clever.”

Chairman Nadler’s interest appeared piqued.  

“I have asked the attorney general to call me and provide an explanation for this order without delay,” the Democrat said in his statement Tuesday.

Durham’s appointment could still create a slight hurdle for President-elect Joe Biden. With Durham locked in to complete his investigation, it will be Biden that is left to contend with the Trump administration remnant, and it will be Biden who is left to remove Durham as necessary.

Federal code guiding special counsel regulations stipulates that an attorney general can only remove a special counsel for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest or for other good cause.

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