WASHINGTON — Former Attorney General William Barr told the Jan. 6 select committee that former President Donald Trump lost touch with reality following his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden and showed no interest in the evidence that disproved his wild claims of voter fraud.
“Before the election it was sometimes possible to talk sense to the president,” Barr said in videotaped testimony played Monday before the Jan. 6 committee. “But I felt that after the election he didn’t seem to be listening.”
“There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were,” he said.
Ultimately, Barr concluded that Trump, who insisted without evidence that voter fraud had cost him victory in the election, had become “detached from reality.”
Barr, who was one of former Trump’s most powerful allies during his term of office, related in extensive testimony to the committee his growing concern and frustration with Trump after the election. He testified about a series of conversations he had with Trump from late November until he resigned in mid-December.
At their first conversation on Nov. 23, Barr said he rebuffed attempts by Trump have the Department of Justice declare that there had been examples of fraud that had influenced the election outcome, which Trump claimed had been stolen.
“I told him the department doesn’t take sides in elections,” Barr told the committee of that exchange. If the Trump campaign could provide examples of purported fraud that were “specific, credible and could affect the outcome,” Barr told the president, then Justice investigators would look into them.
The claims made by Trump and his allies were “not meritorious, not panning out,” Barr said of the many conspiracy theories and false leads put forth following the president’s election defeat.
On his way out of the meeting, Barr asked White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, “How long is he going to carry on with this stolen election stuff?”
Meadows and Kushner reassured Barr, he said, that Trump would not keep making unsubstantiated claims for much longer.
“I think he’s becoming more realistic and knows there’s a limit to how far he can take this,” Meadows told Barr, according to the former attorney general.
“We're working on this,” Kushner said, according to Barr.
On Nov. 29, Trump called in to “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo” show on the Fox News channel and repeated his false statements about a stolen election, complaining that the Justice Department was “missing in action.”
“Maybe they’re involved,” Trump said, implying the the DOJ might be part of a plot to keep him from remaining in office.
Barr then decided to speak out publicly and rebut Trump’s falsehoods. Two days later he told an Associated Press reporter that his department was investigating claims of irregularities but that “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.”
When he spoke to Trump that same day, Barr said, the president was as mad as he’d ever seen him.
“You must have said this because you hate Trump,” Trump said, according to Barr’s testimony to the committee.
The allegations of votes being switched by Dominion voting machines or software were “idiotic,” Barr said.
“I told him it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time and it was doing a great disservice to the country,” Barr told the committee.
But the day after Barr’s statement to the AP and his conversation with the president, Trump repeated his claims about Dominion voting machines in an appearance at the White House.
“We have a company that’s very suspect. Its name is Dominion. With the turn of a dial or the change of a chip, you can press a button for Trump and the vote goes to Biden,” Trump claimed, without presenting any evidence to support his assertion.
On Dec. 14, before Barr resigned, he met one last time with Trump, who claimed to have “absolute proof that the Dominion machines were rigged.”
He handed Barr a report produced by Allied Security Operations. “The report means I’m going to have a second term,” Trump told Barr.
As Barr flipped through the report, he said he felt “demoralized.”
“It looked very amateurish to me,” Barr said. Claims of fraud were made, “but I didn't see any supporting information for it.”
“I thought, If he really believes this stuff, he’s become detached from reality,” Barr added.
The problem, Barr said, was that Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and others were throwing so many bizarre and unsupported claims of fraud around that as soon as Justice Department officials debunked one, several more were pushed forward, without regard to how substantive they were.
“It was like playing whack-a-mole,” Barr said.
Richard Donoghue, who served as acting deputy attorney general from Dec. 24, 2020, until the inauguration of Joe Biden less than a month later, related how he told Trump that the DOJ had conducted “dozens of investigations and hundreds of interviews,” but had not turned up credible evidence of significant fraud.
“I told him flat out that much of the information he was getting was false,” Donoghue said in videotaped testimony to the committee. “We look at the allegations but they don’t pan out.”
But, Donoghue said, “there were so many of these allegations that when you gave him a direct answer on one of them he wouldn’t fight you on that, but he would move to another one.”
One week after the 2020 election, election expert Rick Hasen told Yahoo News that facts “don’t even matter anymore” to Trump’s effort to overturn his loss to Biden. It had become focused on creating the impression that “so many cases must signal something,” Hasen said.
Hasen said that the Trump strategy has clearly become “all about flooding the zone with s***,” as former Trump adviser Steve Bannon once described his political strategy to overwhelm political opponents by swamping them with so much information that it would be impossible to sort through it all.
Barr said that he still has not seen any evidence of a stolen election, and brought up a recently released documentary made by Dinesh D’Souza called “2,000 Mules.” D’Souza was pardoned by Trump in 2018 for a 2014 conviction on campaign finance charges and his film put forth numerous conspiracy theories to try to explain Trump’s election loss.
Barr said the claims made in the film were “indefensible.”