Soon-to-be-departed Attorney General William Barr announced Monday that he saw no basis for the seizure of voting machines to investigate unfounded claims of voter fraud, nor saw any need to appoint a special counsel for such matters.
“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,” Barr said during a press conference.
Barr’s comments push against President Donald Trump’s latest attempt to overturn the election, which he lost last month to President-elect Joe Biden. Trump has asserted that Biden won due to widespread voter fraud, though he has provided no evidence and lost in dozens of court challenges making similar claims.
While Barr agreed with Trump’s claim that there “was fraud in this election” (without providing proof as well), the attorney general saw no evidence that such supposed fraud was “systemic or broad-based,” or that it would change the outcome of the election.
There was also “no basis right now for seizing machines by the federal government” in order to investigate the matter, Barr said.
Last week, sources revealed to the Associated Press that Trump had consulted with his chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, asking them for their thoughts on pushing for a special counsel on fraud related matters, as well as investigating Hunter Biden, the president-elect’s son.
On Friday, Trump also reportedly discussed assigning attorney Sidney Powell to become a special counsel, and to grant her security clearance. Powell, who has pushed unfounded election fraud claims that even the White House has rejected, was seen leaving the White House on Sunday, after attending a meeting with Trump where the idea of issuing an executive order on seizing voting machines was discussed.
Barr’s latest comments on Monday came days before he will leave his position at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Earlier this month, Barr announced his resignation, stating that he would quit his role as attorney general right before Christmas in order to celebrate the holiday with his family. Jeffrey Rosen, the current number-two at the department, will become acting Attorney General later this week.
It’s unclear whether Rosen will entertain any of Trump’s plans to appoint special counsels for the various investigations he is reportedly considering.
In spite of comments this week and earlier this month contradicting Trump’s claims of election fraud, Barr has supported the president’s use of the DOJ for his personal and political interests.
This support was perhaps best exemplified when Barr defended the decision to have the DOJ intervene on behalf of Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought on by journalist E. Jean Carroll, who said Trump had raped her 25 years ago (a federal judge later ruled that the DOJ had acted inappropriately in doing so).