Former US Attorney General Bill Barr is seen on video during his deposition for the public hearing of the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, June 9, 2022. REUTERS/ Jonathan Ernst
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Former Attorney General William Barr picked apart claims of widespread fraud during his conversations with President Donald Trump after the 2020 election, but Trump refused to believe that the results were legitimate, Barr said in recorded testimony presented Monday.
In comments to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Barr portrayed Trump’s election fraud claims as farcical. Barr’s testimony, shown at the panel’s second public hearing detailing the findings of his probe, portrayed Trump as unwilling to believe his then-attorney general when he dismissed false claims about the election results.
“After the election, he didn’t seem to be listening,” Barr said in describing his interactions with Trump following the former president’s loss to President Joe Biden.
Barr publicly stated there was no widespread election fraud in an interview published in the Associated Press in December 2020. He resigned from his job that same month.
Barr said during his committee testimony that Trump’s false claims about the election contributed to his decision to leave the administration.
House investigators showed Barr’s testimony as they detailed the efforts by Trump and his allies to spread the unfounded fraud claims after the 2020 election. A mob of Trump supporters who believed the election was stolen stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, forcing lawmakers to flee as they confirmed Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Since leaving office, Trump has continued to falsely claim that the election was rigged and stolen from him. He has not ruled out running for president in 2024.
Barr met with the president in the White House in late November 2020 after the election, the former attorney general said. Trump said at that meeting there has been “major fraud’ and “as soon as the facts were out, the results of the election would be reversed.” Then, Barr said, Trump claimed the Department of Justice doesn’t think it has a role in investigating the fraud claims.
Barr said he defended the DOJ’s neutrality at the meeting, noting to Trump that the DOJ “doesn’t take sides in elections” and that the “department isn’t an extension of your legal team.”
Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and the president’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows spoke with Barr after that gathering. The two suggested to Barr that they were convinced Trump was coming around to the idea that the election was lost, according to the former attorney general.
Yet, days later, Trump went on Fox News and ripped the Department of Justice, suggesting more unproven cases of election fraud.
“I was somewhat demoralized, because I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with — he’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” Barr explained in describing Trump’s continued stance on the election.
After Barr’s comments to the AP, Trump met with his attorney general at the White House again and repeated his false claims of election fraud.
It was there, according to Barr, that the attorney general told the president that the “claims of fraud were bulls—.” Barr reiterated that they “wasted a whole month on the Dominion voting machines and they were idiotic claims.”
— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this story