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Barr’s turn from Trump’s stolen election catalyst to become January 6’s star witness

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The emergence of former Attorney General William P. Barr as a star witness against Donald Trump for the January 6 committee is a remarkable turning point in several respects. Chief among them is how Barr put his reputation on the line for Trump throughout his tenure — often taking extraordinary and controversial actions that just happened to benefit Trump politically.

Today, it is he who reinforces the fact that he and others have repeatedly told Trump that his claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election were, to use Barr’s oft-repeated term, ” bullshit “. And that’s something that goes a long way in proving that Trump acted corruptly in trying to nullify the election.

But there’s another way the turn is notable, and that is that Barr was also once a key catalyst for Trump’s lie-filled voter fraud allegations. Barr’s willingness to fuel Trump’s conspiratorial ideas was not reserved solely for the Russia investigation; he also delved into what Trump had been saying for years about the dangers of voter fraud. He used such dubious evidence and rank speculation as Trump, and this after Trump had spent years making such outlandish claims.

Indeed, if Barr, of all people, couldn’t be brought in for this ride, that’s saying a lot.

In June 2020, Barr echoed Trump’s concerns about widespread mail-in voting as states expand it due to the pandemic. Barr went so far as to say that elections conducted primarily by mail cannot be secured – and even foreign nations can exploit it.

“I have specific reason to believe that there are a number of foreign countries that want to sow discord in the United States by undermining confidence in the election results,” Barr said. “And I think if we adopt mail programs, that will be an area that they will exploit. And I think you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.

And he kept saying that – even though he admitted he didn’t really have any proof. He made the same statement to The New York Times, saying, “There are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them. And it would be very difficult to understand what is happening. But he acknowledged, “I haven’t looked into that.”

He was there again in September, saying ‘logic’ dictated that a foreign country could send thousands of ballots, apparently undetected. But when pressed, he again admitted he had no proof of this.

Despite the substantial expansion of mail-in voting, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declared shortly after the election that it had been “the most secure in American history.” Additionally, mail-in ballots must match registered voters, which Philip Bump said at the time made such a plot much more difficult than Barr let on:

In fact, it is virtually impossible for a foreign country to be able to submit thousands of ballots undetected. For one thing, any number of those ballots would conflict with existing submitted ballots and be rejected. On the other hand, ballot papers have particular design and production standards that should be adhered to. But most importantly, mail-in ballots are validated upon receipt, usually by matching the ballot’s signature to the voter’s recorded signature. As one counterfeiting expert we spoke with in June made clear, this would be nearly impossible to fake.

Barr followed this up a few days later by claiming in an interview with a Chicago Tribune columnist that mail-in voting eliminated secret ballots and therefore could lead to fraud.

“So now we’re back in the business of selling and buying votes,” Barr said. “The capricious distribution of ballots means harvesting, undue influence, outright coercion, paying a postman – ‘Here’s a couple hundred bucks, give me some of your ballots.’ ”

There are, in fact, many ways for states to make mail-in ballots secret. And even putting that aside, Barr was postulating a type of fraud that has very rarely been proven.

(In clips shown during Monday’s hearing, Barr said he debunked Trump’s theories about ballot harvesting, including in Detroit. He also completely dismissed Dinesh’s recent film D’ Souza, “2000 Mules”, on the same subject.)

Again in September, Barr took an even more Trumpian twist when he attempted to cite actual evidence of voter fraud. He said the Justice Department charged a man in Texas who allegedly collected 1,700 mail-in ballots and filled them out as he saw fit. Except that the case did not exist. A Justice Department spokeswoman said Barr received “a memo prepared within the department that contained an inaccurate summary of the case.” The case Barr was apparently trying to cite, from Dallas County, bore no resemblance to the version of events he laid out.

Shortly after the election, Barr caused another stir by appearing to fight for Trump again. He reversed longstanding Justice Department policy by telling federal prosecutors to investigate “vote tabulation irregularities.” These issues were previously left to state and local authorities, who typically control elections. This raised the possibility that the Justice Department could aid Trump’s efforts to nullify the election, even by simply raising suspicion. (The head of the Justice Department’s election crimes branch resigned over Barr’s memo.)

In the end, that investigation didn’t happen — but not for lack of trying by the Trump team. And on Dec. 1, Barr delivered the most significant rebuke yet to Trump’s fraud allegations; he said there was no evidence of anything that would have changed the election results.

Indeed, one could argue that the interest Barr showed in investigating these things shortly after the election ultimately made his rebuttal of Trump more meaningful – that perhaps going through these motions turned out to be a good thing.

But you could make an even more compelling case that Barr’s history before then — both taking extraordinary actions that benefited Trump and raising barely-founded alarms about mail-in voter fraud — shows just how Trump’s claims after 2020 were ridiculous.

Barr doesn’t appear to have made the proactive decision to go after Trump — nor should he be celebrated for rebutting the fraud allegations late and when he was forced to take the oath. But the fact remains that even he can’t spin that cow manure.

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Post expires at 10:17pm on Friday June 24th, 2022

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