Barr to Trump: Detroit not rigged, vote machine claims ‘idiotic’
LANSING – Then-Attorney General William Barr repeatedly told President Donald Trump that his claims about election fraud in Detroit and Dominion voting machines used in dozens of Michigan counties were wrong and “idiotic,” according to newly released testimony.
Trump, however, continued to push those claims about the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to a riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when his supporters tried to block certification of Democratic President Joe Biden’s win.
Barr was among a series of former allies, White House lawyers and campaign officials who told Trump allegations about the Michigan election and voting machine claims that originated in Antrim County were not true, they said in recorded testimony released Monday by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.
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"There's no indication of fraud in Detroit,” Barr said he told Trump on Dec. 1, 2020, hours after the attorney general first told the Associated Press the Department of Justice found no evidence of fraud capable of changing the outcome of the presidential election.
“I told him the stuff his people were shoveling out to the public was bullshit,” Barr said of his conversation with Trump, who had repeatedly panned “corruption” in Detroit while claiming to win an election he lost.
While Trump and his allies alleged late-night vote dumps at Detroit’s absentee counting board helped turned the election for Biden, Barr said he told the president that the city’s centralized counting board meant ballots were delivered from more than 600 precincts, “so the normal counting process would involve boxes coming in at all different hours.”
The next day, however, Trump posted a video statement again claiming ballots were "dumped" in Michigan because "we were winning by a lot" in the early counting.
Experts — and Trump campaign officials — had predicted later results might benefit Biden because Trump had warned his supporters against voting with absentee ballots.
In recorded testimony before the congressional panel, Barr said he also tried to dissuade Trump from focusing on “idiotic” claims that Dominion voting machines had been compromised to somehow flip votes to Biden.
The Dominion claims were fueled by a human error in Michigan’s Antrim County, where a botched ballot design programming update by the local Republican clerk skewed initial and unofficially results in favor of Biden.
Vote counts were corrected before certification, and the clerk has repeatedly said it was an honest human mistake.
Attorney Matthew DePerno, who is now the GOP’s presumptive nominee for Michigan attorney general, sued over the anomaly and got court permission to analyze a Dominion machine.
Trump used a resulting report from the Allied Security Operations Group to argue there was “absolutely proof that Dominion voting machines were rigged” and meant he was going to have a “second term,” Barr testified, describing his meeting with the president on Dec. 14.
But the report, released one day earlier by DePerno, “looked very amateurish,” did not list any credentials of the authors and made strong statements without evidence to support them, Barr said.
“I was somewhat demoralized because… he’s become detached from reality if he believes this stuff,” Barr said, describing his meeting with the president that prompted his resignation as attorney general the following day.
The Antrim County report has been similarly panned by election technology experts and the GOP-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee, which investigated but debunked several 2020 election claims in a separate report the Congressional panel read into its own public record on Monday.
Biden won Michigan by 154,188 votes. Trump’s campaign did not request a recount but unsuccessfully sued to try to stop certification of those official results.
Barr’s testimony was released Monday during congressional hearings over the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The first hearing was Thursday, the same day Michigan gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley was arrested and charged with four misdemeanors for his role in riots outside the Capitol.
DePerno, the Trump-endorsed attorney general candidate who spread claims about Dominion voting machines referenced in Monday’s congressional hearing, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Bridge Michigan.
But in a weekend interview with a conservative activist, DePerno panned the congressional hearings as “theater” and argued the FBI timed Kelley’s arrest to “create a spectacle” and drive a “media narrative” about the Jan. 6, 2021 riots.
Monday’s hearing also featured testimony from Richard Donahue, who served as acting deputy attorney general after Barr resigned. Donahue said he also told Trump that he was spreading false claims about the Michigan election.
The former president had repeated a claim from the Antrim County report that there was a 68 percent error rate in Michigan voting machines
“The reality is it was .0063 percent — less than one in 15,000," Donahue said in his testimony, noting the president "accepted that" conclusion but then just segued to asking about other allegations.
"I tried to again put this into perspective and further put it in clear terms to the president," Donahue continued. "I said something to the effect of: 'Sir, we've done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence.'”
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