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Politics & Government

Barr Says No Election Fraud Has Been Found By Federal Authorities

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It's been almost a month since Election Day. And today Attorney General William Barr weighed in on the integrity of the vote. Barr said in an interview with the Associated Press that the Justice Department has found no evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of the election. That is a message that directly contradicts President Trump's baseless claims of election fraud. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is here.

Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hello there.

KELLY: So that's quite something - the attorney general directly contradicting his boss. What else did Barr say?

LUCAS: So Barr told the Associated Press that federal prosecutors and the FBI had looked into specific allegations and information regarding the integrity of the vote. And he said quite bluntly they have not found any evidence of widespread fraud. The AP quotes Barr as saying, quote, "to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election." In particular, Barr mentioned one claim made by the president's supporters that voting machines were programmed somehow to skew the results. Barr said the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security looked into those allegations and said they had not found anything to substantiate them.

KELLY: Which is striking coming from Barr - he has been such a close ally of the president.

LUCAS: It really is striking. Barr is directly contradicting the president's repeated claims and, we should say, baseless claims that the election was stolen. And it's all the more striking because in the run up to the election, Barr was right alongside Trump, pushing unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting was ripe for abuse and ripe for fraud. Barr repeatedly said such things publicly.

KELLY: I remember.

LUCAS: And now here he is saying that the Justice Department, the FBI, has found no evidence of widespread fraud in this election.

KELLY: Any response from the president or his campaign?

LUCAS: The president's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, put out a statement immediately in response to Barr's remarks. They allege the Justice Department hasn't really investigated anything here. And they say that they will continue their legal fight through the court, through courts, through state legislatures. But it has to be said. Courts over the past three weeks since Election Day have repeatedly dismissed the Trump campaign's claims in court.

KELLY: Meanwhile, in other Justice Department news - not a dull day on the justice beat, if there ever were one, Ryan. We learned that Barr has appointed John Durham as special counsel. Now, Durham was already investigating the origins of the Russia probe, so what changes?

LUCAS: Well, what this appointment does is essentially shield Durham from being shut down with the change in administration. Now, Barr appointed Durham special counsel in mid-October. It's only been revealed today. We have a copy of the order. Barr says that he did this in order to ensure that no matter who won the election, Durham could continue his investigation.

Now, to date, Durham's investigation is already a criminal probe. Only one person has been charged so far. That is a former FBI lawyer who has pleaded guilty to altering an email. Durham has been looking at American intelligence agencies as part of this investigation. Barr told the AP today that Durham's probe has narrowed and is now focused essentially on the FBI's activities in the Trump-Russia investigation. Barr's order also says that Durham will submit a report to the attorney general in a form that will allow it to be made public, so we have that to keep an eye out for in the year to come.

KELLY: All right, NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas.

Thank you, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF RYAN HELSING AND MATTHEW SALTZ'S "CASCADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.