* …Barr told me he had already concluded that it was highly unlikely that evidence existed that would tip the scales in the election. He had expected Trump to lose and therefore was not surprised by the outcome. He also knew that at some point, Trump was going to confront him about the allegations, and he wanted to be able to say that he had looked into them and that they were unfounded. So, in addition to giving prosecutors approval to open investigations into clear and credible allegations of substantial fraud, Barr began his own, unofficial inquiry into the major claims that the president and his allies were making.
“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr told me. “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.”
The Department of Justice ended up conducting no formal investigations of voter fraud, but as part of Barr’s informal review, he asked the U.S. Attorney in Michigan about Trump’s claim that mysterious “ballot dumps” in Detroit had secured Biden’s victory in the state.
As proof of fraud, Trump’s allies had pointed to videos showing boxes filled with ballots arriving at the TCF Center, in Detroit, to be counted after the 8 p.m. deadline for votes to be cast. But Barr quickly found that there was a logical explanation. It had to do with how the 662 precincts in Wayne County, home to Detroit, tabulate their votes. “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.”
Furthermore, Trump performed better against Biden in Detroit than he had against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden received 1,000 fewer votes in Detroit than Clinton had, and Trump received 5,000 more votes than he had four years earlier. Trump didn’t lose Michigan because of “illegal” ballots cast in Detroit. He lost Michigan because Biden beat him badly in the suburbs.
Barr also looked into allegations that voting machines across the country were rigged to switch Trump votes to Biden votes. He received two briefings from cybersecurity experts at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. “We realized from the beginning it was just bullshit,” Barr told me, noting that even if the machines somehow changed the count, it would show up when they were recounted by hand. “It’s a counting machine, and they save everything that was counted. So you just reconcile the two. There had been no discrepancy reported anywhere, and I’m still not aware of any discrepancy.”
* As Trump ranted about other examples of fraud, Meadows continued to sit silently with his arms crossed, his posture suggesting that he, too, was upset by what Barr had done.
“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr said. “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.”
Interestingly, Trump didn’t argue when Barr told him that his “clown show” legal team had wasted time. In fact, he said, “You may be right about that.”
After going through his litany of claims—stolen ballots, fake ballots, dead people voting, rigged voting machines—Trump switched to other grievances, shouting at Barr for failing to prosecute Biden’s son Hunter. “If that had been one of my kids, they would have been all over him!” he said. By the end of the meeting, Trump was doing almost all of the talking. Why hadn’t Barr released John Durham’s report on the origins of the Russia investigation before the election? Why hadn’t he prosecuted former FBI Director James Comey? Trump was banging on the table. He said that Barr had been worthless.