In a surprise move, attorney general Bill Barr has said an interview with the Associated Press that the department of justice has found no evidence of widespread fraud in the last election, at least not enough to overturn the results.
His comments are seen as a big blow to Mr Trump, who has not accepted defeat.
“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,” Mr Barr, who is seen as a top Trump ally, told AP News on Tuesday, referring to the assertion that ballot machines were hacked to give more votes to Mr Biden.
Mr Barr said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security have investigated that claim, “and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that”.
Reacting to his comments, Trump campaign lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in a joint statement: “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.”
The reason that this is a surprise is not because what he is saying is untrue but that he said it at all, since it goes completely counter to what Trump has been saying. Barr has up to now seemed to have seen himself as more of Trump’s personal lawyer rather than the nation’s top law enforcement official, often going to great lengths to use the department to support some of Trump’s most extreme claims. He could have just kept quiet on the election fraud issue and need not have weighed in on this matter publicly.
So why did he, since he had to know that this would anger Trump who sees anyone who disagrees with him as disloyal? After all, Trump fired Christopher Krebs for saying that this election was the most secure ever. As Democratic senate leader Chuck Schumer wryly noted after Barr’s statement, “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.” Maybe Barr is hoping for that to happen, because like so many people who have been deeply tainted by their proximity to Trump, he is trying at the last minute to salvage something of his tattered reputation.