Former Attorney General Bill Barr said the Justice Department always knew Trump's claims of election fraud were "bullsh*t," according to an excerpt from journalist Jonathan Karl's upcoming book published in the The Atlantic.
Why it matters: Barr's new comments come as Trump continues to propagate the lie that the 2020 election was "rigged." Republicans in swing states now are conducting "audits" of election ballots based on false conspiracies about the election.
Flashback: Last December, Barr told the AP: "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election."
- That comment infuriated then-President Trump, Barr told the Atlantic. “How the f*ck could you do this to me? Why did you say it?” Trump asked Barr. Barr responded that he said it because it was true.
- “You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump," Trump said, referring to himself in the 3rd person, according to Barr.
What they're saying: “My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr told The Atlantic. “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 bullsh*t.”
- Barr said the department investigated a specific allegation, spread by Trump allies, that ballots were being wheeled into a central precinct in Wayne County, Mich., but found a simple explanation.
- “In every other county, they count the ballots at the precinct, but in Wayne County, they bring them into one central counting place. So the boxes are coming in all night. The fact that boxes are coming in—well, that’s what they do.”
- The department also looked into claims that machines were switching votes from Trump to Biden. "“We realized from the beginning it was just bullsh*t."
- Barr also said that he told Trump the lawyers pursuing legal election fights were a "clown show."
Barr said that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been urging him to speak out against Trump's false claims since November but would not do so himself. McConnell did not want to upset Trump as he needed Trump 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.”
(This perspective was written by the Axios news staff and first appeared on Axios.com)