Former Attorney General Bill Barr is working hard at reputation damage control and is now opening up about his fights with former President Donald Trump near the end of his presidency. In a series of interviews with ABC’s Jonathan Karl, Barr said he suspected that Trump’s claims of election fraud were “bullshit” from the start. “My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr said in the piece published in the Atlantic under the headline “William Barr Speaks.” “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.”
Barr said he was long suspicious of the then-president’s fraud claims in part because he expected Biden to win the election. But he still allowed prosecutors to investigate allegations of irregularities, and also opened up his own unofficial investigation into the claims. But not because he believed them, he insists, but rather to be able to better counter the claims. On the oft-repeated allegations of rigged voting machines, for example, Barr said that “we realized from the beginning it was just bullshit.”
As the weeks passed after the election and Trump continued to espouse lies about election fraud, Barr was under increasing pressure from inside the Justice Department and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to speak up against the false claims. McConnell was afraid of doing it himself because he thought it could get the president angry and he would refuse to campaign in Georgia. “Look, we need the president in Georgia,” McConnell said, according to Barr. “And so we cannot be frontally attacking him right now. But you’re in a better position to inject some reality into this situation. You are really the only one who can do it.”
p data-uri=”slate.com/_components/slate-paragraph/instances/ckqfi9vlu001k3h6iwnheh19i@published” data-word-count=”118″ class=”slate-paragraph slate-graf”>That is when Barr decided to tell an Associated Press reporter in early December that “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” Trump was livid. “How the fuck could you do this to me? Why did you say it?” Trump asked. Barr said he was only telling the truth. “You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump,” the then-president said. Barr allegedly pushed back, accusing the president of putting together a “clown show” rather than an organized challenge to the election. “That’s why you are where you are,” Barr claims he said. “You may be right about that,” Trump said. Two weeks later, Barr resigned.