Trump ally Barr says officials found no evidence of fraud that would change U.S. election result
Attorney general's statement comes as Trump files Wisconsin lawsuit
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Barr's comments come despite President Donald Trump's repeated claims that the Nov. 3 election was stolen and his refusal to concede his loss to president-elect Joe Biden.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they've received, but they've uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election. Barr was at the White House Tuesday afternoon for a previously scheduled meeting.
"To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election," he said.
The comments are especially direct 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 people in the U.S. feared going to the polls and instead chose to vote by mail.
Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any "substantial allegations" of voting irregularities, if they existed, before the presidential election was certified — despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.
That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around long-standing Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified.
Soon after it was issued, the department's top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.
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Trump files lawsuit in Wisconsin
The Trump campaign's legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence.
The legal team also responded to Barr's comments, saying the Justice Department didn't do enough to investigate voter fraud allegations.
Statement of Trump Legal Team on Bill Barr’s Comments on Voter Fraud. <a href="https://t.co/SlZRKStbri">pic.twitter.com/SlZRKStbri</a>—@JennaEllisEsq
They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn't have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed, including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence. Local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making similar unsupported claims.
Most recently, Trump filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin on Tuesday seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state's two most Democratic counties, a longshot attempt to overturn Biden's win in the battleground state that Trump lost by nearly 20,700 votes.
The president filed the day after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission certified Biden as the winner of the state's 10 electoral college votes. Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, rather than have it start in a lower court, and order Evers to withdraw the certification.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court gave Evers until 8:30 p.m. CT Tuesday to respond to the lawsuit, an unusually tight deadline that speaks to how quickly the court is likely to decide the case.
Trump is running out of time to have his legal cases heard. The electoral college is scheduled to meet on Dec. 14, and Congress is to count the votes on Jan. 6.
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Trump is not challenging any ballots cast in conservative counties he won. The Biden campaign issued a statement calling the lawsuit "completely baseless and not rooted in facts on the ground."
"The hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites targeted by this lawsuit did nothing wrong," Biden campaign spokesperson Nate Evans said. "They simply followed long-standing guidance from elections officials issued under the law."
Trump has railed against the election in tweets and in interviews, even though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. Trump recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he has still refused to admit he lost.
Special counsel appointed in Russia probe investigation
Barr has also given extra protection to the prosecutor he appointed to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, giving him the authority of a special counsel to complete his work without being easily fired.
Barr told The Associated Press that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel in October under the same federal statute that governed special counsel Robert Mueller in the original Russia probe. He said Durham's investigation has been narrowing to focus more on the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.
The Russia investigations grew out of allegations of co-operation between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russians to help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The current investigation, a criminal probe, had begun very broadly but has since "narrowed considerably" and now "really is focused on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI," Barr said. He said he expects Durham would detail whether any additional prosecutions will be brought and make public a report of the investigation's findings.
Appointing Durham as a special counsel would mean that he could only be fired for very specific reasons under the law.
Under the regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons, such as misconduct, dereliction of duty, conflict of interest or other violations of Justice Department policies. An attorney general must document those reasons in writing.
The focus on the FBI, rather than the CIA and the intelligence community, suggests that Durham may have moved past some of the more incendiary claims that Trump supporters had hoped would yield allegations of misconduct, or even crimes — namely, the question of how intelligence agencies reached their conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.
With files from Reuters