Barr describes his break with Trump and 'bulls***' claims of election fraud

·Managing Editor
·3 min read

Former Attorney General William Barr bluntly dismissed some of former President Donald Trump’s election fraud allegations as “bulls***” in new interviews published Sunday in the Atlantic.

“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr recalled at one point. “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 bulls***.”

The comment was part of multiple interviews Barr did this spring with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, who wrote the Atlantic article describing Barr’s break with Trump in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Trump lost that election to now-President Biden, but had sought to overthrow the will of the voters by pushing a mix of conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods claiming he had actually won key states. Trump was clearly hoping that Barr’s Justice Department would help him in the effort. Barr had been widely seen as a Trump loyalist, and the attorney general had drawn widespread criticism for his rollout of the Mueller report.

But Barr instead publicly undermined Trump’s false allegations of voter fraud. In a December 2020 interview with the Associated Press, Barr said “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

President Donald Trump listens as Attorney General William Barr speaks before Trump signs an executive order aimed at curbing protections for social media giants, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Former President Donald Trump and former Attorney General William Barr in the Oval Office in May 2020. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump and his allies had been pushing a number of discredited claims, including one that voting machines were switching votes from Trump to Biden. (“We realized from the beginning it was just bulls***,” Barr told the Atlantic of the idea that voting machines were changing votes.)

In the Atlantic, Barr said then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been encouraging him to speak out about the election. “Bill, I look around, and you are the only person who can do it,” McConnell reportedly told Barr.

Trump was apparently livid with Barr for his comments to the AP.

“How the f*** could you do this to me? Why did you say it?” Trump told Barr in a White House meeting, according to the Atlantic.

“Because it’s true,” Barr responded.

“You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump,” Trump continued.

In the tense White House meeting, Trump reportedly confronted Barr with a litany of complaints, ranging from falsehoods about the election results to how the Justice Department conducted itself during the campaign.

About two weeks later, Trump tweeted out Barr’s resignation letter, of which a substantial portion was dedicated to praising the president.

“Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House. Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!” Trump tweeted. “As per letter, Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family.”

Trump issued a lengthy statement Sunday night denouncing Barr for his comments in the Atlantic. He attacked both Barr and McConnell as “spineless” Republicans-in-name-only for not backing his conspiracies about the election. 

“He came in with a semi-bang and went out with a whimper,” the former president said in part. “Bill Barr was a disappointment in every sense of the word.”

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