By now, Attorney General Bill Barr must be wondering why he agreed to give an interview to The Associated Press on December 1. President Trump’s supporters were furious over Barr’s remark about having uncovered insufficient evidence of voter fraud to overturn the election’s presumed result. On the other hand, the Democratic Party’s propaganda wing – otherwise known as the establishment or lamestream media – chose to portray the AG’s words as final and definitive proof that the vote count was entirely legitimate, despite the president’s claims. In this instance, both sides were wrong.
To the majority, if not all, of the more than 73 million Americans who voted for Trump – assuming it was indeed only that many – the election result was a sham. It defied all historical patterns, voting trends, statistical probabilities, and even human nature itself. That’s before one even starts to take into account the numerous witnesses willing to swear under penalty of perjury that they saw, with their own eyes, a wide variety of nefarious goings-on. For Barr, then, to even suggest that his Justice Department had been unable to uncover evidence of widespread fraud was too much for MAGA Deplorables to bear.
This was a case of being unable to see the forest for the trees, though. Contrary to a host of gleeful media articles, AG Barr did not contradict the president, nor did he “debunk” the idea that electoral fraud had taken place. He did not “break” with Trump on the issue; neither did he suggest that the DOJ’s findings were conclusive.
The attorney general is a man who chooses his words carefully. When he speaks, one must take care not to overlook any of those words. “To date,” Barr told AP, “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” That one negative statement in itself left the door open to two positive assertions: first, that the DOJ has not completed its investigations into potential voter fraud – and that is in fact the case – and, second, that officials from the Department had uncovered evidence of fraud, but not enough, yet, to suggest that the result should or could be reversed.
Even the president’s attorneys were less than pleased with Barr’s remark. To be fair, those attorneys, led by Rudy Giuliani, have painstakingly gathered hundreds of sworn affidavits and have taken part in several hearings, during which poll watchers and other election officials explained in detail the many ways in which Joe Biden’s vote tallies were inflated and Trump’s reduced. Giuliani and co. obviously feel that the DOJ has not dived as deeply as they have into the murky waters of election-rigging.
Significantly, the AG went as far as tacitly acknowledging that his investigators had uncovered instances of fraud. He explained that “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes.” So, again, Barr did not claim that no evidence of fraud was found, but that, so far, the known instances of fraud do not add up to result-changing quantities.
Further, it is worth considering that the attorney general is going to great lengths not to appear as though he is attempting to prove what President Trump wants him to prove. Would Barr have told AP that he had evidence of widespread fraud even if he had? That is unlikely. Whatever he knows or suspects – be it evidence sufficient to overturn the election result or no evidence at all – Barr is almost certainly playing his cards close to his vest. He is, to use another well-worn analogy, keeping his powder dry. He is not about to either back up or shoot down the president’s claims unless and until his people have completed their examination of this monumentally consequential dispute.
To clarify the matter, DOJ spokesperson Kevin Corke responded to coverage of his boss’s interview:
“Some media outlets have incorrectly reported that the Department has concluded its investigation of #electionfraud and announced an affirmative finding of no fraud in the election. That is not what the AP reported nor what the AG states.
The Department will continue to receive and vigorously pursue all specific and credible allegations of fraud as expeditiously as possible.”
The president’s detractors in the media are, at this point, whistling past the graveyard if they believe the AG has wrapped this up. Likely, they do not believe it at all but are desperate to convince the American people that Barr’s statement to AP was the final word on the matter. Donald Trump remains the commander in chief until January 20, 2021. Congress convenes on January 6 to certify the election result, but that is a certification of the votes cast by members of the Electoral College, an institution Democrats have been talking for some time about circumventing altogether, so is anything set in stone? The answer – especially in a year that has seen previously unimagined social and political firsts – is no. Perhaps William Barr’s critics, on both sides of the political divide, should take a breath.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.