Barr: Justice Department hasn't uncovered any evidence of fraud that would overturn election results

Barr authorized U.S. attorneys to investigate "substantial allegations" of so-called election fraud last month

Published December 1, 2020 6:09PM (EST)

U.S. President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr speak in the Oval Office before signing an executive order related to regulating social media (Doug MIlls-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr speak in the Oval Office before signing an executive order related to regulating social media (Doug MIlls-Pool/Getty Images)

As President Donald Trump promoted a hearing on voter fraud in Michigan on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press that a Department of Justice investigation had not found evidence of irregularities that would overturn the results of the 2020 election.

"To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election," Barr told the AP in an interview.

The comments directly contradict the repeated false allegations from Trump and his allies that Democrats stole the election through pervasive criminal fraud. Trump still has not conceded to President-Elect Joe Biden, a moot point barring a dramatic and unlikely turn of events in the Electoral College. Election officials in every contested swing state have already certified their results.

The new disclosure also appears to undercut Barr's own claims about voter fraud. Earlier this year, the staunch Trump ally repeatedly cast doubt on the security of mail-in ballots, even while admitting he had no evidence to support those allegations.

In spite of his admissions, a criminal complaint last month prompted Barr to grant U.S. attorneys wide berth to pursue "substantial allegations" of election irregularities before final results were even certified.

In a narrowly worded memo, the country's top prosecutor cautioned that "specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries."

"Given that voting in our current elections has now concluded, I authorize you to pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions," Barr wrote.

The new guidance allowed U.S. attorneys to shortcut the typical chain of command to go directly to Barr. Hours later, Richard Pilger, a career prosecutor who oversaw voter fraud investigations, resigned in protest.

Barr authorized the dragnet in parallel with Trump's last-ditch legal crusade to overturn results in key swing states and more broadly undermine public faith in the electoral system. Courts have so far ruled against Trump and his allies in every lawsuit alleging voter fraud that the attorneys have not withdrawn themselves — though the campaign still holds out hope for appeals in some cases.

Still, the Trump team presses on under the scepter of Rudy Giuliani, the former spokesperson for the LifeLock identity theft protection service. The president's personal attorney has launched a flurry of failed filings and hapless press conferences, staging media events and hotel hearings in critical states across the country.

Giuliani is slated to speak at a previously unscheduled Michigan state House hearing on Wednesday evening. The hearing was still not on the legislative calendar as of Tuesday morning, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The hearing comes after a series of Republican lawsuits failed in the state, as well as one week after Michigan election officials certified Biden as the winner of its presidential election. 

On Monday, outgoing Rep. Paul Mitchell, a Michigan Republican who represented a heavily Trump district but did not seek re-election in 2020, responded to a Trump tweet about the election by telling the commander-in-chief to "stop the stupid" and give up the court fights.

"Oh my God. .@realDonaldTrump Please for the sake of our Nation please drop these arguments without evidence or factual basis. #stopthestupid," Mitchell wrote.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

MORE FROM Roger Sollenberger

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Donald Trump Elections Joe Biden Politics Republicans Rudy Giuliani Voter Fraud William Barr