AG Bill Barr privately shot down Trump’s fraud allegations after publicly pushing election conspiracies for months, book reveals

Trump Barr
President Donald Trump stands with Attorney General William Barr during the 38th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Washington.
  • Former AG Bill Barr privately shut down election fraud theories after pushing them for months.
  • Barr expertly explained voting machines and central-count systems to Trump in the wake of the election.
  • Barr, however, had floated a baseless conspiracy about foreign interference with mail voting throughout 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Attorney General William Barr forcefully shut down former President Donald Trump's allegations of fraud in the wake of the 2020 election in private after months of publicly pushing election conspiracies of his own, a new book reveals.

A post-election conversation recounted in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's forthcoming book "Peril" showcases Barr's comprehensive knowledge of election administration and frustration with Trump's outlandish theories and the lawyers pushing them.

Barr's attitude stands in contrast with his own willingness just months earlier to float a baseless election fraud conspiracy, one that Trump would repeat all throughout 2020 in his quest to preemptively discredit the 2020 election.

In December 2020, Barr told Trump his claims of fraud were "bullshit" and he had a "clown show," rather than a real legal team, according to both "Peril" and Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender's book, "Frankly We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost."

"Every self-respecting lawyer in the country has run for the hills. Your team is a bunch of clowns," Barr said, according to "Peril," telling Trump he had "wasted four weeks" on "demonstrably crazy" conspiracies about voting machines.

Barr then provided Trump with a step-by-step breakdown of how ballot scanners and vote tabulators simply speed up the process of counting paper ballots, a count that can then be affirmed through an audit or recount, the book said.

In every 2020 swing state, voters cast their votes on either hand-marked paper ballots or on a ballot-marking device that produced a paper ballot.

"If you take a stack of 20-dollar bills and you run them through a machine that counts them, it comes up and then puts a band around every thousand dollars. Now guess what? The law requires that the ballots be saved, just like the banded money would be saved. So if you say the machine hasn't counted right, you just go to the money and see if that's a thousand dollars," Barr explained to Trump, adding that if the machine and hand counts match up, "I don't want to hear all this stuff about, you know, how this functionality was this and this."

Trump then queried Barr about fraud in Detroit, Michigan, where a big batch of ballots counted in the early morning hours had heavily favored Biden.

Barr, armed with election statistics, pointed out that Trump had actually earned a higher share of the vote in Wayne County in 2020 than he had that in 2016.

"Well, there were boxes," Trump continued to press Barr, "People saw the boxes."

Barr then provided Trump with a detailed explanation of how, unlike other Michigan counties, Detroit officials count ballots not in individual voting precincts but at a central counting location in the city.

"And so, all night these boxes are moved in. And so the fact that boxes are going into the counting station in the early morning hours is not suspicious. That's what they do," Barr told Trump, per the book. "The votes always come in at that time and the ratio of votes is the same as it was last time. There's no indication of a sudden surge of extra Biden votes."

When Trump then turned to Fulton County, Georgia, Barr told him that the DOJ was "looking into this stuff, but these things aren't panning out."

Barr spent months promoting a baseless and highly implausible conspiracy theory that foreign adversaries were going to flood the US election system with fake mail-in ballots.

Barr initially floated the theory in June, telling The New York Times the idea was "one of the issues that I'm real worried about," claiming that "there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in. And it'd be very hard to sort out what's happening."

Barr then doubled down on the theory in a September television interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, admitting he had no evidence to back it up and saying he was basing the theory "on logic."

As puzzled election experts pointed out, however, ballot box stuffing is one of the most easily detectable forms of election fraud to election officials, thus making it one of the most labor-intensive but least efficient ways for a foreign adversary to try to sway a US election.

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