Not that evidence was ever a requirement in President Trump’s quest to overturn the election, but Attorney General-for-a-few-more-days Bill Barr just poured cold water on his boss’s allegations of electoral misconduct. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Barr once again undercut Trump’s narrative of widespread election fraud.
In the press conference, which was scheduled to announce new charges in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Barr openly and directly contradicted President Trump on three separate subjects.
First, with respect to election fraud, Barr said, “I see no basis now for seizing [voting] machines by the federal government. ... If I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool and was appropriate, I would name one. But I haven't, and I'm not going to."
This means that Barr sees no compelling evidence of widespread fraud in the election. He also does not buy into the rampant conspiracy theories of hacked voting machines.
Barr’s statement comes three weeks after he told Congress that the Department of Justice had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” If such fraud existed, it would be the job of the DOJ, along with state law enforcement, to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, but Barr sees nothing of substance to investigate.
There is a little more to the allegations against Hunter Biden. An investigation into the younger Biden’s taxes is underway, and Barr seems happy with its progress.
Regarding Hunter, Barr told reporters, “I think to the extent that there is an investigation, I think that it's being handled responsibly and professionally, currently within the department. And to this point, I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel. And I have no plan to do so before I leave."
This would indicate that Barr does not see evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter that is connected to his father. There would be no reason to appoint a special counsel to investigate the dealings of a private citizen. A special counsel would indicate that there might be a conflict of interest in prosecution by the DOJ.
Finally, Barr also rebutted the president on the SolarWinds hack. Last week, President Trump attempted to shift the focus away from Russia as a source for the hack by suggesting on Twitter that it “may be China (it may!)”
Again, Barr directly contradicted the president’s claim, saying, “From the information that I have, I agree with Secretary Pompeo's assessment. It certainly appears to be the Russians, but I'm not going to discuss it beyond that."
Barr is not totally averse to special counsels, however. He appointed John Durham as special counsel in order to let the prosecutor finish his investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. Barr said on Tuesday that Durham was “making good progress” even though he told congressional Republicans in October that further indictments from Durham’s probe were unlikely.
My impression at this point is that the attorney general has reached his limit on covering for the president. As he is on his way out the door, he seems to have little interest in shoring up the president’s conspiracy theories for his base.
The time could not have been better for Barr to show his backbone. The constitutional crisis generated by Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat is coming to a head on January 6 and the president’s supporters are attempting to build support for objections against the Electoral College vote.
Attorney General Barr’s frank words and acceptance of reality won’t deter the dead-enders among the Republican base, but they may have an impact on the congressional Republicans who have not yet lost their senses of decency and ethics. One of Barr’s last acts, telling the truth in the face of President Trump’s lies, may end up helping to preserve the Union.
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