Barr told Trump his fraud claims were 'bull----.' Former AG emerges as key witness at Jan. 6 hearing

Historically seen as an ally of Trump, Bill Barr told story after story of how he pushed back on baseless claims of election fraud that the former president embraced.

  • Barr said he told his secretary that he may get fired after saying there was no widespread fraud.
  • Barr said Trump had "become detached from reality” if he truly believed the voter fraud claims.
  • Barr said he left the Trump administration in part because of the baseless 2020 election claims.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr's deposition was center stage at Monday's hearing of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Historically seen as an ally of Trump's, Barr sat hunched over a table surrounded by committee investigators and told story after story of how he pushed back on baseless claims of election fraud embraced by the former president and some of his allies. 

“Right out of the box on election night, the president claimed that there was major fraud underway,” Barr said in videotaped testimony shown Monday. “I mean, as far as I could tell, before there was actually any potential evidence."

What happened at Monday's hearing:Trump pushed fraud claims publicly after his staff dismissed claims: recap

Barr's Departure:Attorney General William Barr resigns after clashes with Trump

Voting Rights:Trump election lawsuits targeted Black, Latino areas

Barr told Trump that DOJ is 'not an extension of your legal team'

After the election, the Department of Justice received an “avalanche of allegations of fraud,” all of which Barr said were “completely bogus and silly and based on misinformation.”

He said he did not speak to Trump personally from mid-October until Nov. 23, when Barr said the president pressured him to use the Justice Department to investigate claims of voter fraud. 

Barr told Trump that the Justice Department “is not an extension of your legal team” and that his campaign would have to raise those concerns with individual states. 

Trump then appeared on the Fox News show "Sunday Morning Futures" on Nov. 29 and claimed that glitching voter machines in Michigan moved thousands of Trump votes to Biden, claims that Barr and the Justice Department have disproved.

Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican election lawyer, BJay Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, and Al Schmidt, a former city commissioner in Philadelphia, prepare to testify to the Jan. 6 committee on Monday.

'As mad as I'd ever seen him' 

Seemingly fed up with the president, on Dec. 1, 2020, Barr sat for a lunchtime interview with a news reporter and told the reporter the Justice Department had not found any amount of fraud in the 2020 election that would have changed the outcome. 

Barr had an already scheduled meeting with chief of staff Mark Meadows a few hours later. Before leaving for the meeting, Barr said, he told his secretary that he may get fired, and she would have to clean out his office for him if he wasn't allowed back in the building. 

Barr said he went to the White House and met with another aide before finding out that Trump wanted to see him and a colleague in the Oval Office. 

“The president was as mad as I’d ever seen him, and he was trying to control himself,” Barr said. “The president said: ‘Well this is killing me. You didn’t have to say this. You must have said this because you hate Trump. You hate Trump.’”  

Then the president went into a conspiracy theory about ballots being surreptitiously delivered to a single precinct in Detroit. Barr said he told the president that Detroit counts all ballots from more than 630 precincts in one place, and  that was happening. Barr said he pointed out that Trump did better in Detroit in 2020 than in 2016. 

“I told him that the stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public was bull----,” Barr said. “He was indignant about that.”

More:Jan. 6 committee allegations of Trump criminal conspiracy a signal to Justice Department

Mueller:Judge rebukes Barr for Mueller handling, orders DOJ to release Trump obstruction memo

The suburbs:Trump baselessly claims voter fraud in cities, but suburbs actually lost him the election

Dominion machine claims 'complete nonsense' 

Some of the allegations Barr said bothered him the most were conspiracy theories about voter fraud being committed by Dominion Voting Systems. Barr said these "idiotic claims" were "complete nonsense."

Trump “went off on a monologue saying that there was now definitive evidence involving fraud through the Dominion machines," he said.

Trump also told Barr a report about Dominion was “absolute proof that the Dominion machines were rigged. The report means I am going to have a second term.” Looking through the report, Barr said “it looked very amateurish to me” and he “didn’t see any real qualifications.” 

If Trump truly believed the theory, Barr said, “he’s become detached from reality.” 

Mail-in ballots 

Barr said some of Trump's claims seemed to hinge on the fact that mail ballots that would be counted later would favor Biden – a dynamic called the “blue shift” and “red mirage.”

“That seemed to be the basis for this broad claim that there was major fraud," Barr said. "And I didn't think much of that because people had been talking for weeks and everyone understood for weeks that that was going to be what happened on election night." 

Barr raised questions to Dan Scavino, Jared Kushner and Mark Meadows

Barr said he ran into Jared Kushner and Dan Scavino, who ran Trump's social media accounts, and asked: “How long is he going to carry on with this stolen election stuff? Where is this gonna go?” according to his deposition before the committee.

Barr said that by that time Meadows caught up with him and said, "Look, I think that he's becoming more realistic and knows that there's a limit to how far he can take this."

Kushner then added: “Yeah, we’re working on this. We're working on it.”

From friend to foe 

Barr was often an ally of Trump's before he left the administration.

In 2019, he wrote a letter summarizing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into accusations of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign that Mueller later said created confusion about the findings. 

Barr submitted his resignation about two weeks after his meeting with Trump when he thought he would be fired. He said in his deposition that he left in part because of the false claims about the 2020 election.

"I didn't want to be a part of it, and that's one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did," Barr said. 

Barr's resignation letter struck a different tone

But Barr's tone in the deposition was in stark contrast to his resignation letter, which said he appreciated the opportunity to update Trump on the Department of Justice's review of voter fraud allegations "and how these allegations will continue to be pursued." 

"At a time when the country is so deeply divided, it is incumbent on all levels of government, and all agencies acting within their purview, to do all we can to assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in their outcomes," Barr's letter said. 

The letter did not say any of the claims made thus far had been false, but the letter did describe how Trump was a great president despite a coordinated campaign against him that hit a nadir with the "frenzied and baseless accusations of collusion with Russia."