Barr publicly breaks with Trump in final days as attorney general

On the election results, Hunter Biden and the source of a cyberattack, Barr and Trump do not see eye to eye.

Attorney General William Barr speaks during a news conference, December 21, 2020, at the Justice Department in Washington, DC [Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP]

In his final days as attorney general, William Barr is separating himself further from Donald Trump on key issues of concern to the president.

Trump has reportedly been considering appointing special counsels to investigate the foreign business dealings of President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter and to investigate allegations of election fraud. Barr said neither is necessary.

“If I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool and was appropriate, I would name one,” Barr told reporters at the Justice Department on Monday when asked whether there is enough evidence regarding election fraud to appoint a special counsel to investigate. “But I haven’t and I’m not going to,” added Barr, who is stepping down from his post on Wednesday.

“I’m sure there was fraud in this election,” Barr said, before referring to comments he made to The Associated Press news agency three weeks ago where he said there was no “systemic or broad-based fraud that would affect the outcome of the election”.

“I already spoke to that and I stand by that statement.”

Barr’s comments come as Trump continues to tweet multiple times daily about unproven allegations of widespread fraud and claims that the election was “stolen” by Democrats and Biden.

Trump’s campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani filed a petition with the US Supreme Court over the weekend seeking an order to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania.

This comes as Trump has reportedly held meetings at the White House weighing various options on how to reverse the results or prevent Biden from taking office next month, including raising questions about involving the military and having the federal government seize voting machines for an investigation into irregularities or fraud.

On that last suggestion, Barr said, “I see no basis now for seizing machines by the federal government.”

Meanwhile, Justice Department prosecutors continue their investigations into Hunter Biden’s tax affairs, which came to light two weeks ago. And even though a special counsel would ensure those investigations continue under Joe Biden’s presidency, Barr said he has “no plan” to appoint one before he leaves his post on Wednesday.

The investigation is “being handled responsibly and professionally currently within the department”, Barr said.

Trump’s focus on Hunter Biden has been a years-long effort and was the reason for a phone conversation he had with Ukraine’s president, where Trump urged him to investigate the Bidens. That phone call was the basis for Trump’s eventual impeachment by the US House of Representatives last year.

Trump and Republicans repeatedly tried to turn Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings into the main campaign issue and were reportedly angered when the investigations were revealed two weeks ago and not before the election.

Barr also split with Trump and sided with others in his administration and intelligence experts regarding who is behind the massive cyberattack that targeted the US government.

“From the information I have, I agree with Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo’s assessment. It certainly appears to be the Russians,” Barr said.

The consensus among those who are investigating the source of the hack is that Russia is likely responsible, but Trump suggested without evidence that China, not Russia, could be responsible.

Source: Al Jazeera