- In interviews with ABC News' Jonathan Karl, William Barr described Trump's final weeks.
- Barr revealed that Republican leadership was worried about Trump's false conspiracy theories.
- Trump ripped into Barr after the then-attorney general told AP there was no fraud in the election.
WASHINGTON — Former Attorney General William Barr candidly denounced former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to a report in The Atlantic detailing how the man who was once one of Trump's most loyal lieutenants split with the former president.
In a series of interviews with ABC News' Jonathan Karl, detailed in a forthcoming book on the last days of the Trump administration, Barr described the final weeks of the Trump administration and Trump's frenzied attempts to retain power.
“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr said. “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.”
The expletive-laden conversations between Trump and Barr describe a president furious at his election loss and genuinely in disbelief that his most loyal subordinates would not support him in attempting spread false conspiracy theories and subvert the election.
After the 2020 election, the Justice Department launched investigations into widespread voter fraud across the country in key battleground states.
The latest revelations show that Barr was skeptical of Trump's claims even as he greenlit the operations. Barr also told Karl that he'd expected Trump to lose the 2020 election and that he was not surprised by the outcome. In the aftermath, he launched his own informal inquiries into the most popular claims made by Trump's close allies, alongside the DOJ's official investigations.
McConnell was concerned about Georgia
The latest revelations also highlight the concerns among GOP leaders that Trump's false conspiracy theories would hurt the party electorally in the Georgia runoffs to be held on Jan. 5.
“Look, we need the president in Georgia,” then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Barr during a phone call, according to Karl.
McConnell stressed that Republicans “cannot be frontally attacking” Trump after the election, as he was still highly popular with the party's base. “But you’re in a better position to inject some reality into this situation. You are really the only one who can do it,” McConnell told the then-attorney general, The Atlantic story reports.
“I understand that,” Barr said. “And I’m going to do it at the appropriate time.”
Barr's betrayal on election fraud claims
On Dec. 1, during a lunch interview with an Associated Press reporter, Barr confirmed: “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” according to Karl's interview.
During one December meeting, a furious Trump unloaded on Barr over the AP's story with Barr's comments actively contradicting Trump's narrative around election fraud.
Asked by Trump why he would tell the AP that there was no fraud in the election, Barr replied “because it’s true.” The conversation continued with Trump referring to himself in the third person, telling Barr: “You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump.”
Barr pushed back on the characterization, instead criticizing Trump's competence and close aides' efforts at executing his operation to challenge the election, The Atlantic article explains.
“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr told Trump. “This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy. Instead, you have a clown show. No self-respecting lawyer is going anywhere near it. It’s just a joke. That’s why you are where you are.”
According to aides present and Barr, Trump agreed with the jab, saying “you may be right about that.”
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.
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